Ashley and Mya have really been getting into the holiday spirit, keeping things fun and festive around the house. After convincing me to cave on my “no Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving” rule to put the tree up a week early, we took advantage of a nice post-Thanksgiving weekend to finish off most of our outdoor decorations. While putting together our plan, we compiled a few tips to make the process go smoothly.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission there were more than 15,000 injuries in 2012 related to holiday decorating (mostly from falls, cuts, and back strains). Make sure you always use your ladders safely, don’t step too far out of your comfort zone, and get some help from a friend (or better yet, a professional) for those tricky spots.

safety first

To top things off, fires and electrical hazards spike during the holiday months as well. You can take a few precautions to keep safe and ensure your lights are the only thing lighting up the sky for the holidays.

  • Replace any missing or broken bulbs before hanging
  • Throw away any lights that have worn or exposed wires.
  • Use only lights and extension cords that are designed for outdoor use.
  • Plug your outdoor lights into an outlet protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
  • Follow the package limits for how many strands you can safely chain together.

Before you start, spend a little time planning what kind of look you are going for so you don’t end up frustrated in a tangled mess of wires. Start with the style, size, and color of lights you want to use. Next figure out where you’ll be hanging your lights so you can measure the distance you’ll need to cover, where they will be plugged in, and how they will be hung. Once you’ve got the details worked out, you can be sure you have all of your supplies before you get started.

If all of the details are starting to overwhelm you, don’t be afraid to keep it simple – that’s our approach. Lights and decorations are supposed to be a fun way to enjoy the holiday season, so the last thing you want to do is let them stress you out. We’re not going to mess with anything fancy this year, just a simple wrap around our columns by our front door. It’s not going to blow anyone away that’s driving by, but it makes us happy and that’s all we’re going for. To make it totally hassle free, add an outdoor timer to turn your lights on and off for you.


To avoid damaging the insulation on your wires, you should avoid stapling or nailing your Christmas lights directly to your house. Instead, there are a variety of light clips to help you hang your lights on just about any surface. Or, you can pair up your staple gun with some zip ties to give yourself a safe, easy, cheap, and tidy alternative to buying clips.


If you can keep your staples from going all the way into the wood, it is easy to put in all of your staples first then simply slide the zip ties underneath once they are all up.


I wanted to span two strands of lights across our entry way and down our columns, so I started by centering the plugs above our porch and worked outward from there. I put two zip ties next to the plugs to hold them snug to the ceiling and out of sight, then spaced every 12 to 16 inches along the overhang. Tension keeps the wires in place as they wrap our columns, so just one zip tie was needed to hold the end of each strand at the base of the columns. Finally, trim the loose ends of the zip ties to keep a nice, clean look. When you’re ready to take down your lights, you can just clip the zip ties and keep the staples in place for next year.


Admittedly, I can be a little OCD about loose wires, so I went ahead and strapped down the extension cord to our timer (really, I just wanted to join in on all the fun Ashley’s been having with the hot glue gun lately). Hot glue is another simple alternative for unpainted concrete and stucco surfaces (be careful if your stucco siding is thin so you don’t pull your siding off when you remove the glue).


Our theory is the best time to shop for Christmas decorations is December 26th. We got all of our lights to decorate with this year at crazy low prices after Christmas last year. We were slow to get out shopping so the selection was a little thin, but the prices were hard to beat. We plan to spend some time planning for next year to decide what else we might want to add to our decorations and take advantages of the post-holiday sales again this year.

That about wraps up the decorations for this year. We have one final touch we hope to add soon, so stay tuned to see the finished product!


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