How to use Elf on the Shelf to inspire the real meaning of Christmas

Let's celebrate: It's time to declutter that play room, parents!

By Michelle Ganley - Graham Media Group
Getty Images

Looking for some new spots to hide this guy? (Well, his shelf-sized version, that is?) We're here with a better solution. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Now that Thanksgiving is over and November is drawing to a close, you know what that means: It’s officially Elf on the Shelf time.

But instead of just hiding the little guy like usual, here’s a bold idea: What if he could inspire your kids to get rid of some of their toys, and bring back the true spirit of the holidays? Does that sound crazy? We’ll explain more. Because the Elf on the Shelf should work for you, not against you.

You know the elf, right? He’s dispatched from the North Pole at the start of Advent to keep a watchful eye on the children and make sure they stay on Santa's “nice” list. Does your family have an elf?

It seems to be a fun holiday tradition for many families with small children. You set him up before bed, the kids find him in the morning; it’s a whole thing. Yet, we keep hearing this theme coming from parents who are responsible for said elf, and they say that life with this guy has become more stressful than fun.

Were you racking your brain last holiday season, trying to figure out new set-ups for your elf? Are you eye-rolling at the thought of having to brainstorm all over again? We have a solution. Well, more accurately, Dawn, also known as “The Minimalist Mom” on YouTube, came up with the idea. And it’s perfect. Here’s what you’re going to do.

The elf has got to go. Well, you can keep him in your house if you’d like, but we’re not hiding him anymore. Instead, you’re going to type out a quick letter for your elf to “arrive with” this holiday season. Or, you could steal Dawn’s by clicking or tapping here.

The letter is going to say something along the lines of, “I’m back, and I have a request from Santa. There are so many good kids this year, yet we have a shortage of toys. I have a mission for you. Each night, we’d like for you to place a bow on a toy that you no longer play with, or have outgrown. I’ll take it back to the North Pole with me, the elves will fix it up and then it’ll be used for other boys and girls.”

And here’s the kicker: “This will help make room for the new toys that you will be receiving this Christmas.”

Next you’re going to buy a big bag of bows from the Dollar Store and you’re going to give your children the responsibility of parting with their toys. Just one a day -- for however long you'd like. Got a ton of junk? Do it for a month! Or are you just hoping to clear out a few things? Just do it for a week or two.

“This is Elf’s (and your child’s) new mission for this year, so there isn’t time for mischief or other shenanigans,” Dawn says.

You could also have your kids fill out a wish list, so that Santa knows exactly what new toys your kids are hoping for. You can give encouragement cards, as well, if your child is doing better than expected with this tall task. And hey, maybe there’s a special toy Santa’s been looking for … perhaps that Cozy Coupe your son hasn’t touched since he was 4?

This is an easy new tradition that you can start this year --  today even -- and it’s sure to please parents and children alike. If we had to guess, there could be some resistance at first, but we’re willing to bet your kids will come to really enjoy "helping Santa." It declutters your home, makes room for new things, and best of all: No more scouring Pinterest at 1 a.m. looking for a new elf hotspot.

You in?

 

Graham Media Group 2018