Problem: The light strings are always tangled, and you don’t know what kind of replacements you need for the dead and faded bulbs.
Solution: Whenever you buy a new string of lights, immediately label the plug with the type and number of bulbs in the strand and where you purchased it. That way, any damaged bulbs will be easy to replace, says Steve Pearson, a three-time winner of the Merriam, Kansas, Festival of Lights Contest. As for the knots and snarls, Taylor offers this tip: Take an empty coffee can, cut a slit in the plastic lid, and put the receptacle end of the light cord through it. Wrap the string around the can, and store extra bulbs and extension cords inside. (When it’s time to unpack the lights again, plug each strand into an electrical outlet to make sure it works before you unroll it.) Always store colored lights in a dark place to keep the bulbs from fading (blues, greens, and purples fade faster than reds and yellows do).
Problem: “Santa’s” suit is starting to look dusty and worn.
Solution: “If your costumes are homemade or valuable to you, treat them as you would a wedding dress,” says Taylor. “Dry-clean them, press them, and keep them folded neatly in a sealed, acid-free container so that no moisture or moths can get in.”