Once a month, add a cup of Distilled White Vinegar 1 Cup of Baking Soda directly into the drum and use HOT water for washing. Then, I add about ½ cup of vinegar into the fabric softener compartment and ½ cup of baking soda into the detergent compartment. Set the wash on “Quick Wash” with HOT water and High Spin Cycle. If the mold situation is really bad,use bleach instead of vinegar and baking soda. But make sure you run a few empty cycles just with hot water before doing a load of wash.
"Elf on the Shelf" alternative - the "Wandering Wisemen." Move the Wisemen around the house as they search for Jesus. The kids have fun finding them all over the house. They Wisemen can face obstacles, maybe stop for food and drinks etc until Christmas morning when they arrive at the Nativity. (This idea is actually kind of cute!)