NEW YORK (MainStreet) – If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably planning on keeping up your Christmas decorations through New Year’s Day. But once the holidays are officially over, we’d like to suggest that you get your decorations down sooner rather than later.

And we’re not just saying that because it’s tacky to leave your lights up until March – it’s also a safety issue.

“Holiday decorations are meant for temporary use,” says Brett Brenner of the Electrical Safety Foundation International, a nonprofit organization that promotes electrical safety. “Keeping your decorations up for extended periods leaves wires unnecessarily exposed to the elements, which can decrease the product’s shelf life and increase the risk of electrical hazards, such as fire, shock, and electrocution.”

With this in mind, the organization recommends taking your lights down by the end of the first week of January.

When you do finally get around to taking down the lights and decorations, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. The ESFI also sent along a number of safety tips to follow, including checking your ladder for missing screws before you start climbing up to your roof to take down the plastic Santa. You should also take the opportunity to remove any broken or faulty lights, and make sure the insulation on the wires isn’t stripped or frayed. And don’t just yank the plug out of the wall, because you could cause damage to the cord that could start a fire next year.