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Simplify Your Christmas Decorating

A pile of lit christmas lights all tangled up.
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As much as everyone loves the cheer that holiday decorations bring, hanging your Christmas lights can be a major point of contention and a bit of a hazard. There are a lot of decisions to be made, from what types of lights to buy to whether you should string your tree from the top down or the bottom up.

So what is the best way to decorate for the holidays?

According to Bruce Littlefield, author of "Merry Christmas America," there are a bunch of options out there. However, on "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," he shared a few buying tips and secrets you'll definitely want to keep in mind for stringing up the perfect Christmas lights for your display.

So what should people keep in mind when they head to the store to pick out lights?

Littlefield: "There's such a sundry of options, but there are some key things to keep in mind. First of all you want to buy UL rated (Underwriters Laboratories) lights so they have been tested and you know that they don't have problems, like a high lead content. And be sure to read the labels - you want to make sure that you are following the instructions on the package when you go to hang your lights. If it says you can only string together three of them, don't do more than that. Another thing to keep in mind is whether you want colored or white. If you want white lights, there's the mini lights which are the small traditional ones that we've come to know and love. But because of the genius of technology we have LED lights, which obviously save an exorbitant amount of money over the long haul in terms of electricity."

Whats the difference between LED and mini bulbs?

Littlefield: "The difference is that the LED lights are a little more expensive in the short run, but are worth it in the long run since they will save you so much on electricity. For example, the average strand of LEDs are $15 dollars and an average strand of mini lights is only $5 to $6. LED lights will last 10,000 hours or more, which is basically a lifetime of Christmas lighting. But the thing that's special is that they don't have a filament and that's what usually drives people crazy. They get their tree strung and one light goes out and it all goes caput. The joy of LED light is that they don't have those filaments, so if one bulb dies, it doesn't kill the whole string. Another thing that is interesting is that the LEDs have a little icier look. They have an icier glow to them than traditional mini lights. And people have gotten used to that traditional look, so it might take a little getting used to. What's great about LED lights is that they are available in every kind of style."

"Now I remember the old C9 and C7 - old vintage looking bulbs "Charlie Brown" light bulbs. They were those colored old bulbs that would hang on the outside of a house. When I was a kid those bulbs would be so hot that every kid that I know got burned on them at some point. You couldn't touch them. LEDs are cool to the touch. They do not heat up at all and there are benefits of that...decreased fire danger, it doesn't dry out your tree. A light that gives out heat will dry out tree quicker versus those that don't."

So do you recommend LED lights over mini-bulb ones?

Littlefield: "My recommendation is that if you have traditional lights, don't throw them away. Use them. But inevitably, as those lights begin to die and you get new ones, replace them with LED lights. You know, 'waste not want not,' no need to ditch what you already have, but totally worth investing in LEDs going forward."

How do you string up lights on a tree?

Littlefield: "The first thing that you need to do is pull your tree away from the wall and decorate away from the wall. People always do it in a corner, but pull away from the wall so that you can easily reach the sides of it and you aren't crawling all over your wall."

"The clincher for me and my secret to doing the lights as pain free as possible - I run an extension cord up center of tree to the top. So I have a cord at the top which I wire with a bread tie and then I come off of that down the tree and what I always say is that people often try to lasso or strangle their tree. You want to go in and out in a zigzag pattern along the branches. That gives your tree depth and it will light all of the ornaments."

"I break the tree down into three triangles. Three sides of the tree coming down. And go down in and out in and out running one line from the top to the bottom. I do that on each of those three sides. In to the trunk and out to the edge, wrapping around the branch as you're going in and out. And what you get is dimension on the tree. It lights it thoroughly from inside out."

"People who lasso the tree end up with a tree that looks like just that. You can see the lights hanging there, rather than seeing the lights glowing there. It will truly transform their tree into what looks like a decorator tree."

What about ornaments?

Littlefield: "If you have a lot of one kind of ornament, hang your lights first, then garland, then ornaments. With ornaments hang the biggest ones first and smallest last. Place big ones strategically because you want them to be spaced well throughout the tree. If you want to see if your tree is looking good, step back from it and squint your eyes and you see two things - where the dark spots are and where the spaces are that don't have ornaments."

How many lights do you need to decorate your tree?

Littlefield: "You can do a 6 foot tree with 300 lights. For decorator a more decorator looking tree, you'll want to figure one hundred lights for every foot of tree. The reason I say the two ways is that some people can't afford to do a decorator tree. You can have a fabulous tree with 300 lights. But the way that people do them when they see it in the store, they're going to have 100 lights per linear foot."

What about the trees that people have in their yards that don't have any leaves?

Littlefield: "The key there is to start at the trunk and then you wrap around the branch. You go from the base of the branch at the trunk and move out to the edge of the tree to the end of the branch and go back."