Now that holidays are over, it’s time to put away the Christmas lights. Do your future self a solid and put the strands of lights away neatly to prevent tangles and frustration next December. Here are six simple ways to get the job done without a lot of extra hassle.

Cardboard cut-out

While it’s tempting to grab a strand and just start winding it around your arm, as soon as you pull your arm out of the wound lights, the tangles begin.

The solution? Use the same concept, but replace your arm with a rectangular piece of cardboard. Cut it to about the size of a magazine and cut a slit in one end. Slide one of the ends of the strand lights in the slit and begin wrapping around the long edge of the cardboard until you run out of lights. You can even double-up by interlocking two or three strand lights per piece of cardboard.

Once you’re finished wrapping, plug the loose end into the plug to hold everything together.

Use the box

For an even simpler solution is to use the box the lights came in, if you still have it. Simply wrap the cord around the box instead of stuffing it back inside. To keep the strand from slipping off, stab a wooden meat skewer through each end of the box.

Clothes hangers

If you don’t have enough cardboard on hand but you do have some excess clothes hangers, you can use those instead. Take one of the loose ends of the strand and hook it through one of the strap holders. Then, while keeping the strand taut, begin wrapping it around the clothes hanger vertically, keeping it as neat as possible.

When you’re done wrapping, either hook the other end in the other strap holder or plug it into the other end of the strand. Then you can hang them in the storage closet. How convenient.

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Bunching

When you first took the strand lights out of the box they came in, they were likely bunched and held together with a cable tie or rubber band.

This can be redone quite easily, but it’s a bit more time-consuming. The benefit is that it’s even less likely to get tangled.

To bunch the lights again, grab one of the lights near one of the ends. Next, grab a light two lights away on either side and group them together. This gives you two lights on one end and one light on the other. Continue to bunch every other light until you run out of strand. Wrap the loose ends around the middle of the bunch and connect the plugs.

Use a cord reel

Another option is to purchase a cord reel, typically used for long extension cords. They come in several different styles, but the premise is the same. There are large cord reels with a handle that can hold hundreds of feet of cord, or you can find a spindle with a handle. They range from just a couple buck to upward of $70 (£52 or AU$90).

Connect all your strands together and attach one end of the light strand to the roller and spin it until the strand is completely wound. Next year, simply unspool the strand lights when it’s time to decorate for the holidays again.

Roll in plastic sheets

The above methods really work best for standard strand lights. But if you happen to have icicle lights, you may find wrapping methods don’t suffice. However, there’s a simple trick that works really well for icicle strands.

Buy a 1-foot-wide (30-centimeter) roll of plastic. Roll out a length of plastic sheet equal to that of the strand lights and cut the plastic sheet from the roll. Place the strand on top of the plastic sheet and roll the plastic sheet and strand lights together. This will keep the icicle strands from tangling and bundle everything neatly inside a sheet of plastic.

When you’re ready to use them next year, unroll the plastic and you’ll have a perfectly tangle-free strand of icicle lights.

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