Skip to main content

Christmas Tree Hacks: How to Make Your Set-Up Quick, Clean, and (Almost) Not Frustrating

What could be finer than beholding a Christmas tree decked with ornaments and aglow with hundreds of twinkling lights perched nearby the crackling fireplace as you sip a winter IPA, a book on your knee, children soundly asleep, and a gentle snow falling outside on cold winter night? If you answered pretty much nothing, then you’re right. That’s the tops, right there. Christmas trees have been a part of winter holiday celebrations for at least a thousand years, and today serve as the primary seasonal decoration on many homes.

Steven John/The Manual

As lovely as the Christmas tree is once installed and decorated in your home, the process of getting the tree inside can be a headache and a half. There’s the mess of the needles, the pain of getting the trunk secured into the tree stand and balanced upright, the awkward stretching and bending and inevitable face poking during the stringing of the lights, and so on. To take the sting out of the Christmas tree installation process, we’ve put together a list of Christmas tree hacks that will save you time and save you from frustration as you bring that evergreen charm into your home.

This year, my family started a new tradition of cutting down our own tree. We went to a farm about an hour from home, found a fine-looking tree among the rolling hills of a tree farm, and sawed that fir right on down. With a hand saw. First tip? Use a reciprocating saw or a chainsaw if you cut the thing down yourself! But from here on out, whether you cut your own Christmas tree or you get on from a lot, the Christmas tree tips will be the same.

Attaching the Tree Stand

Do It While the Tree Is Horizontal

Arguably, the worst part of setting up a Christmas tree is the process of lowering its trunk down into the tree stand, then getting it perfectly erect, then securing the tree safely in its base. The ordeal involves backache, scratched skin, poked eyes, and marital strife. This year, simply put the tree stand onto the bottom of the tree while it’s still attached to the roof of your car or sticking out the back of your truck. (Or get the tree down from the car and put the stand on while it lies on its side on the ground or a table.)

Once you have the stand attached, don’t bring the tree inside, though! Stand it up and make sure it’s upright and stable, then cut away that mesh the helpful tree farm folks wrapped around it. Now, let’s make your tree look great!

Shaping Your Tree

Use a Hedge Trimmer

Truth be told, I didn’t think of this hack until after our tree was inside — and painlessly set-up thanks to the base already being attached! — so it involved a fair amount of cleanup, but it was worth it for a well-shaped tree that took about five minutes’ worth of work.

Steven John/The Manual

Take a good look at your tree standing there (outside) your home. It looks nice, sure, but not perfect, eh? Well, no problem — you can whip it into shape in no time! Or trim it into shape, rather. I used a battery-powered hedge trimmer to quickly sculpt our tree into a pleasing cone shape, nipping off branches that stuck too far out from the rest and giving the bottom of the fir a uniform height. Then my wife and I spent 10 minutes cleaning up branches and needles, so again, do this outside!

Cleaning Loose Needles and Debris

Use a Blower

A live Christmas tree is going to drop needles in your home. That’s just a fact. And it will deposit an inordinate amount of these needles as you bring it into the house, squeezing through doorways and around furniture. You can minimize the mess, however, by clearing most of the loose needles and other debris clinging to the branches while still outside. Of course, you should first do a few good ol’ thumps, lifting the tree a few inches off the ground then plopping it down, dropping a plethora of needles in the process. But then grab a blower and give that tree a good long blast of air. Work from the top to the bottom, the bottom to the top, side to side, and make sure to get the tip of the blower deep into each layer of branches. You’ll blow away thousands of loose needles, dust, deciduous leaves that came along for the ride, bugs, and more.

Putting Up the Christmas Lights

Do It While the Tree Outside

Rather than crawling and stretching and grunting your away around the sides and back of your tree as you light it, enjoy easy access to all parts of the tree by putting on the lights while it’s still standing outside. (You checked the strands already, right?) I also recommend placing the end of a medium-duty extension cord with several outlet taps near the center of the trunk, securing it by wrapping the cord around a branch, and then feeding its male end down past the base of the trunk, leaving plenty of slack to reach the outlet inside. That way, you can start strands of lights from this hub and not worry about always finding the end of the previous string of lights.

By putting the Christmas tree lights on outside, you get easy access to all parts of the tree and you further reduce the dropped needle mess inside.

Preparing for Disposal

Put a Bag Under the Tree Stand

Sure, it’s sad to think about tossing your tree before it’s even set up and decorated, but let’s be reasonable here: January You will thank Early-Holiday-Season You for the foresight. Partially open a disposal bag and place it where you’re about to set up the tree, then finally carry your blown clean and light-wrapped tree inside and plop it down in place. Tuck the bag down around the stand, fill that thing with water, cover the unsightly bag situation with a fine tree skirt, and get to decorating!

Steven John/The Manual

There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Now … what to do with your Christmas tree when the season is over?

Article originally published November 28, 2018. Special thanks to GMC for the loan of a 2019 GMC Sierra Denali pickup truck

Editors' Recommendations

Steven John
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Steven John is a writer and journalist living just outside New York City, by way of 12 years in Los Angeles, by way of…
The 11 best Robert De Niro movies to stream right now
From Raging Bull to The Godfather Part II, these are the roles that have defined De Niro's long career
Robert De Niro in Goodfellas

There are few actors working today who can match the career that Robert De Niro has had. Some, like Brad Pitt or even George Clooney, have been in plenty of great movies, but even they don't stack up to the kind of career that De Niro has had over the last half a century. De Niro's success can be chalked up, at least in part, to his collaboration with great directors. De Niro has been in some of Martin Scorsese's best movies, and Scorsese isn't the only director who knows how to use him.

Really, though, it's De Niro himself who deserves a lot of the credit. Although he's been in plenty of schlock, the best movies of his career are up there with the best movies ever made. When he emerged on the scene, De Niro showed off his ability to play a range of different types, and his skills have only deepened as the years have gone by. Keep reading and find out what Robert De Niro movies you cannot miss if you have already.

Read more
The 12 best Adam Sandler movies (they’re not all comedies)
From Uncut Gems to Happy Gilmore, these are the films that defined Sandler's career to date
Henry Winkler (left) and Adam Sandler in The Waterboy

 

What is there left to say about Adam Sandler? The Sand-Man has been a fixture of pop culture for well over 20 years, having worked first on Saturday Night Live and then broken out in a series of farcical, wonderful comedies in the years after his departure. He's one of the biggest comedy stars on the planet, and he's been part of some of the best comedy movies. He's also made plenty of movies that nobody should be forced to watch twice.
For every movie that has immediately been relegated to the trash bin of history, though, Sandler has also made an indelible comedy or a surprising turn into drama. While he could have emerged looking a little bit like a one-trick pony who relies on funny voices for cheap laughs, Sandler turned out to be far more complicated than that. He is a genuinely great actor whenever he wants to be. The rest of the time, he's content to make silly movies with his best friends. Here are the best Adam Sandler movies you need to watch now.

Read more
Take a lot of handwritten notes? This gadget will change your life
A man uses the reMarkable 2.

There is an overwhelming desire to return to paper from people of all walks of life lately. Screens have invaded us. But what we're often not seeing is an actual return to paper. It's not necessarily as convenient as we remember it to be, and a lot of the return to paper is about desire, not action.

Should you also have the desire to return to the physical but also have an addiction to screens, let me introduce you to the reMarkable 2. It's a sort of notebook, drawing tablet, document reader hybrid that is considered one of the best tablets for handwritten notes. Here are the top ways its been helping us.
It helps me remember things
Let's start this one out with a list:

Read more