The Elves and the Homemaker (Or “Getting Chores Done While You Sleep”)

I recently read the Brothers Grimm tale, The Elves and the Shoemaker, to my kids. It’s one of the Grimm boys’ less intense stories about the poor shoemaker who goes to bed having cut the last piece of leather to sew his last pair of Jimmy Choos before he goes broke.  And that evening two little elves sneak in and sew the most beautiful Manolo Blahniks that he is surprised to find on his work bench the next morning.  He sells them for a huge profit, purchases 2 pieces of leather to cut for 2 more pairs of Louboutins and the little elves come and sew more.  And sew on…  (All shoe references are credited to random, useless knowledge of celebrity fashion and not my closet.)

Though this is a sweet little tale about helping those in need and being grateful for help received, the elves eventually moved on to other pursuits.  Making cookies in a little tree perhaps.  But it made me wonder how I could get me some little elves.  (And I don’t mean that slightly creepy Elf on the Shelf that took this Christmas by storm.)

See, I want to wake up and have stuff done that I wasn’t able (or willing) to get to the day before. I am not a great cleaner, abhor things that need to be maintained, and get paralyzed if a job seems too overwhelming.  (It’s a wonder God let me have children.)  But as a not-so-organized mom, I have managed to limp along with little systems that make sense for me.  And I came up with another system recently that puts some of my household “elves” to work.  And I share it with you, my fellow Shesources…

Each evening, let us mentally check a few simple categories to see what we can set into motion.  We probably do some of these tasks some of the time, but if we could invite a couple/few of these “elves” to do their thing every night while we’re Sleepy, something tells me we will feel less Grumpy and more Happy.  Oh wait, those are dwarves.  My bad.


Mount Washmore

WASH – Load and run the dishwasher or start a load of laundry so you can be halfway done with clean dishes and clothes in the morning.  Cleaning appliances with crazy stains like ovens, toaster ovens, and even bathtubs often require an overnight application of baking soda and water in order to get them sparkly.  (Still wish I had real elves to finish those jobs.)

DRY – Make the Fly Lady happy and clean your sink full of hand washed dishes letting them air dry overnight.  Put the washer contents (that you forgot about all day) into the dryer or on your clothesline.  Turn your dehydrator on to give your beef jerky, dried fruit, homemade yogurt or crispy nuts/seeds a head start.  Take a shower and let your hair dry overnight, rather than rely on the time, energy and damage of a hair dryer.

Soaking Beans from adashofsass flickr photostream

SOAK – Soak those greasy pots and pans with some baking soda, those cloth diapers with some oxygen bleach, or your toilet/sink/shower head with vinegar so they will be ready to tackle in the a.m.  You can also consider doing a night-time watering of your garden or plants to have less daytime water evaporation.  And while you’re at it, start soaking some beans in the crock pot, oatmeal for breakfast, and if you are a real meal-planning rock star, brine or marinate some meat for dinner.

DEFROST – Speaking of meat, take a piece of the 1/4 of a cow you have hanging out in your freezer and a get a jump on tomorrow’s dinner.  We also keep extra bread, butter, milk, broth, etc. in the freezer, so check your staples before you go to bed.  (Trying to separate frozen pieces of bread and attempting to spread rock hard butter on toast is just wrong.)  And if you have a busy day coming up or no meal-planning inspiration, take out that frozen block of unlabeled leftovers and surprise yourself.


Simmering bone broth

COOK – I have nourishing 24 hour bone broth simmering on the stove almost once a week.  And I plan to try more of those overnight slow cooker breakfasts.  And though it’s not technically “cooking,” don’t forget to start some ferments:  feed/raise your sourdough, mix a tablespoon of kefir or yogurt whey in your organic ketchup for a simple probiotic condiment, or drop some water kefir grains into coconut water for a simple, delicious, and crazy nutritious “coconut soda.

HEAL – If you get a chance to look in the mirror at the end of the day or take a shower once a week, you may begin to notice that the bod is needing a little help.  Give yourself an overnight facial with olive oil.  Or apply coconut oil or another natural moisturizer on dry, rough hands or feet, cover with plastic produce bags and socks.  Go to bed lookin’ the fool, but wake up with super-soft skin!  Also, add a shower cap to cover these DIY hair repair treatments while you slumber.  And if you are like me and don’t find time during the day to fight a potential ear infection or sty in the eye, put garlic oil and a cotton ball in your ear or raw milk (or breast milk!) in your eye right before you go to sleep so the remedy elves can fight all night long.

MOVE – Sometimes the most movement we get in a day is typing, stirring and bending over to pick stuff up off the floor.  So we often need an intentional push to move (or at least get some things moving while you sit on the couch watching Downton Abbey).  Though you don’t want to raise your heart rate before bedtime as this can compromise sleep, consider this quiet, kid-free time as a good opportunity to do some simple stretches, exercises, and massages that will have continued benefits as your body rests.  A few of my favorites are: T-Tapp‘s unique and holistic head-to-toe exercises (I’m currently trying the flat stomach sequence), proper squats to improve your alignment and flexibility, Life Extensions to promote correct posture and counteract all the sitting we do each day, and Nia’s five stages of fluid movement that bring relaxation and radiance.  Or give yourself a simple lymphatic massage (with or without a dry brush) to get your immune juices flowing, do some oil pulling, which is an ancient Ayurvedic “oil swishing” practice that apparently improves everything from cavities to headaches to eczema, and then finish off with some Makoho (Japanese relaxation stretches) or Bedtime Yoga poses before you get your ZZZzzzz…

Man, I’m feeling more productive already!  After all, “a noble [wo]man makes noble plans and with noble deeds, [s]he stands.”  (Isaiah 32:8)

Let’s commit to choosing a few of these “elves” to put to work each night and we’ll be on our way to a happier morning.  But don’t lose sleep by being overly ambitious – that would defeat the purpose!

And if you’d like a visual reminder to print out, laminate, and hang on the frig, I spent way too much time making my first subway art-style Overnight Chores Printable  on Microsoft Word (must. get. more. techno-savvy…)  So please, enjoy the fruits of my lengthy labor!

Anyway, here’s to helpful “elves” and sweet dreams!  (Potentially involving Legolas…)

What “elves” do you put to work overnight?


6 thoughts on “The Elves and the Homemaker (Or “Getting Chores Done While You Sleep”)

  1. Wow, Melanie!

    I’m so impressed with your wonderful post, that is FULL of great ideas!

    Thanks for sharing it with us!

  2. Just the dishwasher and clothes washer ones! Man that’s such a long list! Oh, the bread machine cinnamon rolls sometimes too, make dough, let rise overnight in fridge.

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