Editor’s note: The following is a blog entry for “Ms. Simplicity” that appears on the Echo Press website under Areavoices. It is written by Melissa Schmalenberger, a professional organizer based in Fargo, North Dakota.
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. A cat will come into my house and clean out the bathtub with my mom’s dress, WHAT? My heart rate is elevated just by thinking about this. Maybe this is why I have no love of cats. My kids will never get the warm fuzzies from a cat thanks to that book.
But wait…now there is an elf who will watch you at all times and see if you are being good? So just add 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 that love using the elf and I know moms that feel it is just another thing to add to their never ending to-do list. I had one mom friend who hid the elf so well, she couldn’t find it! 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 and asked 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, great idea, and her kids loved it and she did too! This is a win in the elf column for me!
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 and get him 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 be reminded to brush their teeth twice a day.
• How about the elf with some hand soap to prompt the kids to wash their hands several times a day, especially after using the bathroom.
• How about having family reading time under the tree.
• A kind deed done for a stranger in a pay it forward action.
• Adopting a family in need and focusing on making their holiday dreams come true.
• Volunteer feeding or preparing meals for the homeless.
• Focus on holding the door open for those that are coming after you when walking into a building.
• Make fleece blankets for the hospital or women’s shelter in your area.
• Visit a retirement home with other families and sing carols.
All I ask is for you to try to capture the reason that your family celebrates the season. Take the focus off of materialism and back on charity and generosity. So maybe I will buy an elf after all.