When it comes to Passover I don’t like to talk about where I’m “holding,” because I don’t want to hear that my neighbor has set her seder table while my house looks like a tornado ran through it. But those who are inspired by others’ progress should look here.
This is for readers having trouble getting started with Pesach preparations. It’s all practical; no inspiring words tonight.
Mom in Israel’s Guide to Pesach Cleaning
Make a schedule including a column for each day. Mark any appointments you have, and pencil in the Pesach chores that are left. Try to distribute the heavy jobs among different days, according to when you will have help.
Keep in mind that anything you plan to kasher must be cleaned carefully and cannot come into contact with hot chametz for 24 hours prior to kashering.
Anything not coming into contact with food does not need to be cleaned, only checked for pieces of edible chametz.
Here are the jobs, in some kind of logical order. Skip anything that doesn’t apply to you.
- The refrigerator and freezer. Empty them and clean carefully.
- Chametzdik Menus. As you empty cabinets and the refrigerator/freezer, sort food into the following categories: Kosher for Pesach, eat before Pesach, sell (chametz), put aside (not chametz, but not KFP either), and give away/throw out. If you need more food, add it to your shopping list. Make menus for the meals until Pesach.
- Cover one shelf of the fridge and freezer with newspaper for the last of the chametzdik food.
- Cabinets. Empty out and line one or two cabinets for Pesach food as early as possible. Continue to prepare cabinets as you finish up the cooking and can put away utensils you no longer need. If you come across an item that you haven’t used since last Pesach, give it away.
- Don’t clean more cabinets than you need. Wipe off the crumbs and gook, and ignore stains. If it’s convenient, put Pesach utensils in the cabinets as you prepare them.
- Bedrooms. The kids should do their own, if they are old enough. If you are compelled to clean every toy small children might use during the holiday, set aside a few and pack up the rest. Check backpacks, pockets, purses and drawers. Don’t clean them.
- Plan menus for Shabbat and the seder. Make them simple. Mark down any items not on your standard shopping list.
- Shopping. The longer you wait, the more crowded the stores. Pick a calm, quiet time to write the list, and don’t forget non-food items like toilet paper, dish and laundry detergent, candles, toothbrushes and cleaning supplies. Avoid going to more than one or two stores, and if no one in the family can help, go with a neighbor (at least in Israel).
- Set aside utensils to be kashered. Arrange for the sale of chametz.
- Clean the car. Or at least check it.
- Keep up with the household laundry. If the leader of your seder wears a kittel (special white robe) is it clean? Any summer clothes you want to take out? Ironing? Linens? Tablecloths and dish towels?
- Check that medicines are kosher for Passover.
- Scrub the top of the stove, grates, and knobs.
- Clean and kasher the oven.
- Clean and kasher the dishwasher. Since this involves taking it apart and cleaning a million pieces individually, you may decide it’s possible to survive without it. Ours is electronic so the timer will be useless anyway by the time the seder rolls around this year. Update: This rabbi gives simple instructions for kashering a dishwasher.
- Vacuum the sofa, or at least pull up the cushions and look for chametz. Maybe you’ll find something good.
- Polish silver. Not essential but nice–maybe you can find an available pre-teen.
- Haircuts and clothes shopping, if necessary.
- Kasher utensils.
- Finally, clean, kasher and cover the counters and sinks.
- Cook. Start with the items that keep well. As soon as I “turn over” the kitchen I make the mayonnaise, hard-boiled eggs, and egg noodles. The kids make the “ice cream” (sherbet). (I bought two boxes of macaroons; no baking for me.) Then I do the soup, haroset, meat and vegetables, leaving the horseradish for last. I calculate the vegetables I need and prepare them at the same time. For example, if I need carrots for soup, pot roast and carrot salad, I peel them all at once. Chopped onions also keep in the refrigerator. I wash all greens at once, dry them on towels, and store in the refrigerator.
- Last minute items: Wash floors, empty garbage and vacuum canister, open packages, set timers, and check the refrigerator and cabinets for chametzdik food.
Allow time after every task to clean up and “put out fires” that have built up elsewhere, and to make sure your kids are fed and supervised. Get them involved whenever you can (see below). Take frequent breaks to eat, drink, and rest. Alternate heavy and light jobs, sitting and standing. Try to sweep and do a light mop at the end of each day (ha).
Wishing you all happy cleaning, and pleasant memories of this time for ourselves and our children.