Laura H. Friday, November 30, 2012

Ahh, the Holidays. I could sit here and go on and on about how wonderful it is to be surrounded by my crazy family eating things that are bad for us, but I won't. Not today. No, today is where I issue a warning to all of you who have gotten sucked in to the hype that is pre-lit Christmas trees.

Then I'm going to tell you what to do with them after half of the lights go out due to the non-replacable fuses in the strings blowing. But first, some backstory.

The Christmas that I found out I was pregnant, I decided to get us a new tree at the post-holiday letdown markdown sales. So I went and came home with the best white tree ever! I LOVE white trees! The ornaments show up so much better and the colored lights look amazing on them. So a white one it was. Fast forward a year and Elizabeth has arrived and is celebrating her first Christmas with lots of drool and teething. We put up our tree and it looks fantastic! Fast forward another year and we are in a TINY apartment with barely enough room for all of us to be in the living room together and my white tree in a storage unit about a mile away. So no tree.

When we moved to a bigger apartment, I figured I'd find a way to fit that tree in. Then we moved in to this house and I KNEW we'd have one. So as we are moving, I give the tree the once over. It isn't white anymore. It is yellow and smells weird. (TIP: Don't store the tree in a rubbermaid box. That's no good!) So it gets tossed and the hunt for a new one begins.

Even during the sales, new ones were going for $45 or $50, and we really waffled. I'd told my mom about needed a new one and she actually found one at a Women Are Safe thrift store in my hometown. SCORE! And it was just like hers - pre-lit, 7.5 feet tall, and green. I'd long accepted that a green one would be our fate (Boy Scout wasn't crazy about my white one) and this one had his favorite - colored lights! WAHOO! So my mom bought this one and we were so excited! I helped her put hers up so that I knew whwat I was doing with ours, came home, and began. I got that whole thing together and fluffed up and plugged it in.

More than half the lights were dead. The bottom rows on the bottom and middle sections and the top of the top were dark. I unplugged, replugged, and wiggled every light.

Then the internet told me that these trees have fuse bulbs! Great! Find and replace! Easy as p....

This brand's fuse bulbs are not replaceable. If I want my pre-lit tree to work, I'll have to buy a replacement strand (actually 4 strands) from the manufacturer for $15 a strand. And put them on myself.

I'll paraphrase what I actually said about this to, "Great scott, sir! Whatever could you possibly be thinking in charging such an inflated price for something I will then have to install? I think NOT! Thank you and good day! Be sure to not let the door strike you in the hinder-end as you exit!"

Then I realized that the strings are just *wires* and if someone put them on, then I can get them off. So I did!

Now before you get all excited about ripping the lights off a pre-lit tree let me tell you something. The Chinese or Pakistani individual who put them on in the first place is an EXPERT at their job. They did their job with a complete and total dedication that I just don't think many people in this world appreciate. And I'm NOT being sarcastic, either. I don't know who they are, never met them but I admire their ability to do what they do 'cause let me tell ya - after having undone it I've concluded that there are only two people in this world who I would do that for again and both of them have put up with me since I was soiling my diapers. I've done this ONCE, the people who put these lights on do it for a living!

I *wish* I had pictures. I *wish* that I'd had the sense to take some. But I didn't. So I'm going to tell you how to do this the easiest way. I got lucky and hit on this early in the process. It still took me about 4 hours to de-light a 7.5 foot slim tree.

Step one: Stop thinking about the number of lights and tips that are on the box. If you don't stop thinking about that you will have defeated yourself from the start. Also, wear old clothes and long sleeves.

Step two: Take the tree apart in to its sections. Disconnect everything from a power source.

Step three: Starting where ever pleases you, flip your first section upside down. The bulk of the wires will cross on the underside of the branches to keep them out of plain view. As you look at the underside of the branches, there will be lines of wire crossing over the bottoms. Cut *every one* of those wires with wire cutters. Every one! These lights don't work once you've lost that non-replaceable fuse light, so there is no point in saving any part of them. CUT!

Step four: Repeat the cutting for every individual branch there is. Also, the wires that circle the trunk need to be cut too. Cut between every branch.

Step five: Now, grab one of the bulbs by it's base and PULL. If everything is cut, it will corkscrew off without much trouble. It will be kinda tough to get some going and there might be some that you missed a loop on. Just keep the cutters handy and cut whatever needs cutting. Toss the little bits of wire and lights promptly. If a light is attached with a little clip, just pull harder. Most times, the clip will come right off.

Step six: Don't forget the middle wires that circle the trunk. Just pull those things out of there. You don't have to be very gentle at all. Any of the fake needles you knock off or cut with the cutters will be just that many fewer that you have to sweep up in three weeks.

Step seven: The top is trickier - there are no hinged individual branches. Put a movie on and go one at a time.

Step eight: Walk away. Once all the lights are off, just put it down and walk away for a while. This is a hard, tedious, time consuming thing to do. Just walk away until you can come back and do the putting-up routine. For me, that was two days.

So now you ask, "Why do this at all?" Well, there's plenty of reasons. For us, it is a combination of 1) not wanting to waste my mom's money, 2) we like the shape of this one, and 3) it is still a good looking tree and we don't want to go buy a new one when an old one will still do with an investment of time on our part. That third one is a real kicker. With lights that weren't working, we did not feel right re-donating it somewhere (like taking broken toys to Goodwill.) And it was still a good looking, full, attractive tree with many more years of use in it. I can't toss something that is still useful! So, lots of hours of work and the investment is protected and there's not another tree in the landfill.

That being said, I did not realize how dangerous the job was. I advise long sleeves from experience. I didn't discover until I was in the shower that I actually had forearms covered in paper-cut like scratches. I discovered this with the help of the water. And yeah, I yelled. So cover those arms! You will be thankful you did.

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