It is October 21st and with just over two months until Christmas and about one month until Thanksgiving it's time to plan out the Christmas lights once again. Over the next few weeks I will share with you some tips and hints to make this year’s decorating easy and fun. Let's start with simple planning. Before a single light goes up on the house I put it all on paper first.
Each year I sit down with a drawing of the house, barn, fences and out buildings that I plan to light. I made elaborate scale architectural renderings a few years ago and I work off copies of it each fall but a simple sketch works just fine. (My wife says I tend to overdo things...who me....Naaahhh ?)
Having a sketch to work from that you can make notations on will dramatically cut down on the work you have to do outdoors and helps to eliminate any mistakes. I have made a few over the years, like running long strands of lights only to discover that I put them up backwards and the end you plug in is now many yards away from the electrical outlet....I've done that more than once. It is even more fun when it is on a long gutter run on the top floor and I have to take it all down and begin again. So preplan your set up...here are some hints.
On your drawing mark where your electrical outlets are located and draw arrows to the closest strand of lights you intend to use. Mark the light strands on your drawing with arrows indicating the direction that they need to be run. Remember not to over load circuits or breakers and always keep yourself safe. I also mark where "ground effects" like Bliss lights or free standing lite up pieces will go in the yard as well. I mark on my drawings each light strand with the male and female ends of the plugs so that it is less time up on the ladder and less frustration.
Designate any extension cords you intend on using and the approximate length of each on your drawing so that you know what you will need and what to purchase. All Christmas lights list on the boxes just how many strands can be connected together and these are not recommendations, they are safety regulations....follow the warnings. Over loading a circuit or breaker is bad news and always leads to trouble. Most electrical outlets are 15 amps or 120 volts. If you intend on running lots of lights or longer strands may I suggest LED bulbs, they use less current and tend to last longer as well.
After your sketch or drawing is done, pull out your Christmas lights and CHECK them. Most people do not take the time to do this from year to year but I have gotten into the practice of checking every single strand and every single bulb before even thinking of putting them up. Why...because the lights spend more time in the box in the barn or garage over the months than on the house at Christmas time. There is no telling if a hungry squirrel decided that your lights might be a tasty snack in the off season or maybe a stand became frayed or brittle. If you check them now you will be in for less frustration trying to find why things are not lighting and your circuit breakers are failing. Either way it is a good safety remainder to do this.
And lastly before you put up your lights, LABEL them. I mark each strand with a permanent marker and a label tag ie "First floor gutter run" or "Garage Roof".....that way I know what strand goes where and it saves time and misery. Don't tell yourself you will just remember which strand goes where because you won't. Test your lights indoors to make sure they all light, replace bad bulbs now and you will have less time on the ladder and more time enjoying your lights later.
Enjoy the planning process. It is what starts that magical spark called Christmas spirit in me each year and I look forward to the planning as much as the end result. This is the time of year when things get hectic and rather busy so plan now and embrace the season to come. More hints coming soon.
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