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Melissa Schmalenberger, Published December 08 2013

Ms. Simplicity: Put the 'Elf on the Shelf' to good use this year

To be honest, I really don’t understand “Elf on a Shelf.” All I know is when I am on social media sites like Pinterest or Facebook, I see all these elves doing crazy things. I have been watching with anxiety as moms are crazy with trying to make this elf do strange things.

Mind you, I was the kid who was scared that a cat was going to come into my house and make a mess. Thank you, Dr. Seuss, for that memory.

But wait – Now there is an elf who will watch you at all times and see if you are being good? Just add it to the list of ways to traumatize your kids. If the kids do everything the elf wants them to do, the elf will take their Christmas list to Santa. Oh, but don’t touch the elf, for then he will lose his magic powers.

I know moms who love using the elf and moms who feel it is just another thing to add to their never-ending to-do list.

I am all for adventure and fun for your kids, but the moment it adds stress to your life you need to stop or change your action.

Finally I saw hope on the elf front. I saw a post from my friend, Amanda, that I could get behind. She had her elf write the kids a letter asking them to gather toys they don’t need or want in a box so that Santa can take them back to the North Pole with him. Yes, a great idea, and her kids loved it – and she did too.

But like all good things, moderation is the key. Start with the idea of corralling that clutter. We all know that with holidays comes well-meaning intentions of too many gifts. So by ridding the house of some of that ahead of time, you will be well ahead of the curve. I think if you can use this elf to get your house more organized before the holidays, it is a win in my book.

So what other constructive ideas could this elf come up with?

  • Set the elf by the kid’s toothbrushes with a reminder that the elf talked to the tooth fairy and she wanted them to remember to brush their teeth twice a day.

  • Place the elf by some hand soap to prompt the kids to wash their hands several times a day, especially after using the bathroom.

  • Have family reading time under the tree.

  • Do a kind deed for a stranger in a pay-it-forward action.

  • Adopt a family in need and make their holiday dreams come true.

  • Volunteer to feed or prepare meals for the homeless.

  • Hold the door open for someone.

  • Make fleece blankets for the hospital or women’s shelter in your area.

  • Visit a retirement home with other families and sing carols.

    Try to recapture the reason that your family celebrates the season. Take the focus off of materialism and back on charity and generosity. Maybe I will buy an elf after all.

    Do they make an elf for husbands? I have a garage that needs to be organized. Hmmm … I might be onto something here!

    Ms. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger, operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo. Email her at melissa@mssimplicity.com.