Every year I attempt to roll up the lights for my Christmas tree in a way that will make them easy to get out the next year, but the next year, inevitably, they're all tangled up and I have to spent time pulling them apart.

enter image description here

Okay, they're not quite as bad as that picture, but they're not great.

My usual method is the same one that works well for extension cords... I hold one end in my hand and then start looping the cord from my handle to elbow. Once I'm done with the entire cord, I slide it off my elbow and I've got a the cord wrapped in a circle. While this does indeed work fine for extension cords, I'm guessing the problem with doing this for lights is that the cord isn't smooth... it's got all those lights sticking up off it, after all, and I think everything it's getting tangled and not wrapped as tightly as a result.

Does anyone have tips for better storing these so that they're easy to get out the next year?

  • 3
    Don't tear down your Christmas tree to begin with.
    – badp
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 15:30

10 Answers 10


Seeing as how I usually have some new cardboard boxes lying around when it's time to take down the lights, I tear off chunks and wrap my lights around them, similar to what's shown below. Typically, I'll cut notches along two sides so the cord sits in the notches and won't slide around. That lets each coil be closer to the next as I'm sure they won't tangle.

It's cheap, lightweight, effective, and easy to unwrap next year.

Wrap lights around cardboard


Wrap them around a cardboard egg carton.

enter image description here

The type for 2.5 dozen eggs works even better

enter image description here

I just took that picture. It has 3 strands of 100 lights apiece rolled around it. I then put the carton inside a cardboard box for storage.


If you have an empty long tube - e.g. tube on which some time ago there was some foil, like this:

You can wind your "christmas lights" on it and put in some box. If this tube is too big you can cut it or find a thinner one (on this image it is too thick :D ).

  • Vote given - I use the inner cardboard tube from kitchen roll, or for longer strings of lights, the inner tube from a roll of wrapping paper (though usually, its too long and needs cutting down a bit).
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 13:01

I'm a big fan of using a hose reel to store lights.

enter image description here

These tend to keep the strings untangled and the bulbs semi-protected. Just be sure to put no more than 3 - 6 strands on any one reel, and be consistent in the direction of the plug.


I actually store them in a similar way to what is pictured. I roll each strand into a ball, with the male power plug on the outside and the female power plug at the center of the ball.

This makes it easier to place the strands on the tree the following year, as I simply plug the ball in and unroll it around the tree. Since the strands are fairly tightly bound up in the ball, they do not tangle with themselves or each other. It also does not take up a lot of storage space.

I find the spherical nature of the ball makes it easier to roll/unroll the lights, as you don't need to worry about the lights falling off the edge of a cylindrical tube or taking up extra space with a the side guards of a reel.


We bag each string in a 1-gallon (approximately 4 litre) Zip-Lock storage bag. There's still some tangling, but you only have one string at a time to deal with. Additionally, we number each string, using a Sharpie, on the side of the plug and number the bag to match. Spare bulbs stay in the bag, making it easier to find the right spares for the string.

We also leave notes on the bag - when the string was first used, if there were more than one or two bulbs replaced, etc., that help us decide when to retire a string.

  • Imperial gallon, US dry gallon, or US liquid gallon?
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 21:53
  • @gerrit whichever is available locally. The ones we currently have in the kitchen are 26.8cm x 24.1cm x 6.6cm.
    – TomG
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 22:01

I wrap them round a magazine (top to bottom), fold the magazine in half (left to right) then put each string in a carrier bag. Since doing this I never get tangles.

But I'm not really posting about Christmas lights - I'm posting about this:

My usual method is the same one that works well for extension cords... I hold one end in my hand and then start looping the cord from my handle to elbow. Once I'm done with the entire cord, I slide it off my elbow and I've got a the cord wrapped in a circle.

You should almost never wrap a cable around something as it twists the cable and will weaken it over time.

A few things you can do to avoid this include:

  • Coil the cable in a figure of eight. The twists will cancel themselves out.
  • Fold the cable in half, then in half again. Once it gets to a reasonable length, tie a loose knot in it, or secure it in some other way. Note that most of the time when you buy devices with cables, they provide the cable folded then secured with a bit of insulated metal wrapped around it - this is because it causes the cable very little stress.
  • Use the under/over method. This involves coiling the cable in alternating directions - this means that twists in the cable are cancelled out and not aggregated (like the figure of eight method).
  • Wind the cable around something. Note I'm distinguishing between this and wrapping. You'll notice that when you get extension cables (esp. mains extension cables) which are long, they come with a spool which rotates. This doesn't twist the wire at all and keeps stress low, prolonging its life.

Sorry my post is mostly about a part of your question you perhaps didn't want a comment on, but I thought you might be interested.

Some interesting links:


Check this out for Christmas lights and all kinds of ropes and cords, from water skiing to mountain climbing, camping. Or, even amplifier cords, and musicaenter image description herel instruments. Use your imagination. Or, visit www.kordkaddy.com.


My answer is similar to TomG's -- put the light string in a Ziploc bag -- but with a few variations. Let's assume your strand of lights is 10 feet long (a little over 3 meters).

  1. Get 3 gallon-sized Ziploc bags. (They're about 27cm x 27cm.)
  2. Start at 6 inches (15 cm) from one end of the strand. Put the next 3 feet (or 1 meter) into the bag and zip it closed. You'll have 2 ends sticking out: a 6-inch (15 cm) end, and a strand that's 6-1/2 feet (about 2 meters) long.
  3. Take the next 3 feet (1 meter) of the 6-1/2 foot (2+ meter) strand, and put them in to the second Ziploc bag. Zip it closed.
  4. Take the final 3 feet (1 meter) and put them in the third Ziploc bag. Zip it closed.

You'll have a 6-inch (15 cm) end, 3 Ziploc bags (each with 3 feet / 1 meter of cord contained in them), and another 6-inch (15 cm) end. Stack the 3 bags flat on top of each other. And next year you'll have no tangling (or very very very little, since a contained 3-foot / 1-meter section can't tangle much at all!).

  • Imperial gallon, US dry gallon, or US liquid gallon?
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 21:55
  • This isn't a recipe. Inaccurate measurements won't mess it up. ;-) ....... However, in this case I "dumbed down" your edit to say 3 feet is about 1 meter, instead of 91 cm. These are all ballpark measurements meant to illustrate a point. Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 23:25

Try a product such as the Kord Kaddy. It works great for Christmas lights, cords, ropes, etc.


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