Sweet, sweet Christmastime. The lights, the smells, the festive music. The cozy blankets and mugs of hot cocoa and Hallmark movies playing on loop.


Since becoming a parent, though, there is one part of Christmas that I’m not all that crazy about—the flood of “stuff” that enters our already full home on December 25th.

Friends and family mean well (and heck, I’m just as guilty of over-indulging), but I inwardly cringe at each gift my kids open as I think of their overflowing toy boxes and wonder, “Now where the heck are we going to put that?”

RELATED: Dear Family: Let’s Cut the Clutter This Christmas With Big Ticket Items

This is the year it changes, though.

This year, I’m enlisting the help of Santa and our family’s very special Elf on the Shelf friend, Boots, to help remove some of the clutter (read: stress) from our lives before the newness of the holiday comes streaming in.

Here’s the plan:

When Boots the Elf magically appears in our home on December 1st, he’ll be accompanied by a large, empty box and a note that reads: 

“This year Santa Claus has a special job for you, because you have lots of things but some kids have so few. 

Please look through your house and find some special toys that you no longer play with to give to other girls and boys. 

I’ll take them back to Santa so he can put them in his sleigh, and your gift will bring joy to others on a magical Christmas day!”

The idea is that every day leading up to Christmas, our kids will choose a different toy from their abundant supply to send back to the North Pole where it will be spruced up in Santa’s Workshop and delivered to a special child on Christmas Eve.

Pretty cool, right?

I love that this puts the task of purging toys in my kids’ hands for a change, instead of me filling a trash bag amidst protests from two kiddos who insist that they “always play with that one.” It’s also a good exercise in being intentional about sorting toys they love from the toys that are just “once-in-a-while” playthings.

The best part of this tradition is that it not only declutters the house a bit before the inevitable Christmas bomb explodes on December 25th, but more importantly, it reinforces the giving spirit of the season and provides the perfect opportunity for us to talk with our kids about the many blessings we have been given that others might not be as lucky to have.

At the end of the month (or several times throughout), I’ll make a trip to Goodwill or another local toy donation drop box with the chosen toys, and voila! Mission accomplished on all accounts. 

Parents—if you’re already starting to sweat the clutter of the holidays, I suggest putting in a call to your Elf on the Shelf STAT and asking him to get on board with this plan, too.

Honestly, this one little favor is the least he can do in return for the mischievous messes, marshmallow bubble baths, and living room zip-lining adventures you hook him up with all December long thanks to all your great Elf on the Shelf ideas.

Don’t have an Elf on the Shelf? It’s not too late to adopt one into your family! We love this little guy and this little gal. Or, if you’re looking for a faith-based alternative to Elf on the Shelf, check out the Shepherd on the Search.

Or, for a different way to celebrate kindness and giving this holiday season, try a Kindness Elf for a festive and meaningful alternative!

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Casey Huff

Casey is a middle school teacher turned stay-at-home-mama to three littles. It's her mission as a writer to shine light on the beauty and chaos of life through the lenses of motherhood, marriage, and mental health. To read more, go hang out with Casey at: Facebook: Bouncing Forward Instagram: @bouncing_forward