Pesach Crisis Cleaning Checklist

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Day 0/8/1 - Housework
Image by Eugene of Norway via Flickr

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.

Related:

Getting Your Kids to Help with Pesach Cleaning

Passover Recipes and Cooking Tips

Unofficial Guide to Pesach Shopping in Israel

“Turning Over” the Kitchen

Preschool Passover Project: Simplified Haggadah

Keeping Kids Interested in the Seder

Why “Average” Haredi Families Go to Hotels for Pesach Part II

The Indispensable Post-Pesach List

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Comments

  1. My stomach hurts, just reading this!
    I made a list this year.
    My stomach hurts when I look at my list and see how much I still have to do.
    I get happy feelings when I cross things off the list.
    So far, I have crossed off my car and our extra fridge (that’s another story).
    Today, the kids did their rooms. I guess I can cross that off as well.
    Tomorrow, I have to do my room. I’m embarrassed to admit that my room is worse than my kids’!

  2. ps. Today, I also cut (trimmed) both my daughters’ hair, and my own (with some help from my eldest)
    That wasn’t even on our list (though it should have been)
    I think I’ll write it in, just so I can cross it off!

  3. You forgot to mention setting aside a few minutes each day to curl up into a ball in a corner and sob uncontrollably.

  4. I’m with RivkA (stomach hurts when i read your list) and Raizy (I’d like to curl up into a ball, but instead of crying I’ll laugh, because she is so funny).

  5. Safranit says:

    Oy…we are very lucky…our girls don’t spread chametz through the house. My husband cleaned the floor of the girl’s room and didn’t find any chametz. (I organized their clothes).
    Tomorrow I’m home with just the baby, so I hope to do the oven and the cabinets. Or at least a few of them.
    Luckily we are splitting the seder work, so I can just do the parve stuff (kugels etc..)

  6. you forgot to mention flipping the rugs over and bleach-cleaning the backs in case a crumb got through to the other side :P
    (that’s a joke. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t do that, readers. Unless you regularly eat off of the backs of your rugs)

  7. I am tired just from reading this post

  8. It’s true, food-shopping for Pesach is probably the one bad part about celebrating the holiday in Israel. The stores are crazy. Luckily I have a terrific husband who doesn’t mind going really late, like 11:00 (since we’re in Israel I guess I should say 23:00!) or midnight.
    I started earlier this year and I’m so glad I did. My fridge is done and I’m about halfway done with the freezer (my hands got cold so I’m taking a computer break!) I usually wait longer with the f/f but it feels so good to have them almost done already.

  9. Danny Brothers says:

    i’m not even sure where to start…

  10. Inspiring! Thanks. I need that.

  11. Mom,
    I was feeling pretty good about myself until I read this….
    You missed one very key item: I see no place on your list for cleaning your computer. This is a very intricate, crucial task in the search and eradication of every piece of chametz. I, so far, have spent hours on my laptop because I want to make sure I don’t miss a crumb. As a matter of fact that is what I am doing right now. Of course, there are some radical rabbis that are lenient and say you can store the computer with your toaster oven for the duration of the chag, but most of the ashkenzic, sefardic, reform, conservative, constructionist, conservadox, taliban and atheist views are that this is only in extreme circumstances and one should not make this decision lightly.
    (If you are thinking, uh-oh she’s losing her mind, you’re right).
    SuperRaizy, you crack me up!
    Oh, and thanks for the link.
    :)

  12. Thanks, Mom! Great list!
    Since we have been hosting seder for several years, we have also learned to computerize our lists (cleaning tasks, shopping, erev chag stuff…) and save them from year to year. Printing them out the day after rosh chodesh Nissan helps us get a real head start on all the work and enables us to divide it up over more days.
    Storing chametz away in a place out of reach to the kids, even though we are still serving chametz meals, helps by allowing us to clean rooms several days ahead of time, check them off the list, and expect them to stay chametz free. Of course we will still check them later.
    5 minutes a day of positive, spiritual thinking (remember yetziat mizrayim?) also really helps to make the whole thing worthwhile…
    Chag kasher vesameach everyone!

  13. mominisrael says:

    RivkA, good luck! Good job with the hair.
    Raizy, LOL. It won’t go away.
    Leora, agreed.
    TC, LOL.
    RG, your wife is in trouble.
    Safranit, good luck.
    BB, :)
    RR, don’t you turn off the freezer first?
    DB, read the post again. I told you!
    Baila, that was too funny.
    AR, I’m glad you have a plan that works for you.

  14. Brilliantly well organized.
    I generally buy the napkins, foil etc very early. I got some weeks ago, long before we decided to join our son across the street from where I bought the napkins.
    We’ll get more napkins.

  15. Regular Anonymous says:

    Excellent list. Thorough but not obsessive.
    Now if I could only get my kids to stop eating on the couch…..(which they aren’t supposed to do ever).

  16. Indispensable list – I will refer to this down the line! Thank you!

  17. Ugh. Horrible, but a good and useful list. I’m printing it out.

    Let me add one:
    Remove the upholstery from the baby carriage/stroller and launder it. It almost certainly has Bamba and/or Cheerios ingrained in it.

  18. Michael.Roodyn says:

    Excellent list, but I note you forgot(?) to feed the kids/ husband during this hectic time.

    They like pets, flowers ect need to fed and given a little dose of tlc, or am I being selfish?

    • As your basic Word Nerd, I really appreciated your pre-Pesach menu suggestions for kids/husband: “They like pets, flowers, etc . . .” What a brilliant idea for cooking & de-cluttering simultaneously. :-)

      • P.S. Living in a part of Shiloh overrun with hyraxes – who consider any garden their personal salad bar – I’d feature them as the Daily Special. (When your husband says he’s hungry enough to eat an elephant, you’re good: shvanei sela are their closest relatives.) Only way flowers could appear on next year’s menu. Oh, wait a minute, that’ll be Shmittah again . . .

        Isn’t living in Israel – or the “PA” – the best???

  19. mominisrael says:

    Michael,
    If you look at the Pesach category on the blog you will see that I often talk about this. Much harder than cooking for Pesach.
    Victoria,
    Thanks for the compliment and the suggestion.

  20. margalit says:

    This year I hurt my back badly and vowed only to do the absolute minimum. Paper plates, cups, and plastic napkins for the entire week means little to no dishes. I don’t care what it LOOKS like, I’m saving my back. Cleaning meant closing and sealing all the cabinets in the kitchen, bring up the pesach pots and pans from the basement, and the serving dishes and utensils from the dining room. The entire house was cleaned by our home health aide today, which is fine… good enough anyhow. The stove is self-cleaning and is done, the microwave is done, the counters are tin-foiled, and the big shelf that holds all the food in our kitchen was stripped of all the hametz, which is sold, and lingers on our front screened in porch OUTSIDE the house. The shelves are covered with thick plastic which is stripped off, and then the pesach food is placed on the virgin shelves.

    Total time: Maybe 5 hours. It’s fine for us. I’ve gone nuts in previous years and ended up exhausted and miserable. Now, kitchen is turned over as of Sunday, I started cooking today for both seders, and we’re right on schedule.

  21. mominisrael says:

    Margalit, Refuah shlemah!

  22. Ruth
    Twitter:
    says:
  23. “Vacuum the sofa” – oh, sure, contest winner. Rub it in. Never mind that you wrote this *before* you won the vacuum cleaner out from under me, that’s irrelevant.

    Seriously, nice checklist – wish I had seen it *before* I (almost) finished everything ;)

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