Confessions of a personal organizer: how I clean for Pesach

Most of my clients get pretty frantic about cleaning for Pesach.  It might even be fair to say that most Jews get pretty frantic about it! But I say: “What’s the big deal?” Why get worked up about cleaning for Pesach? Sure, you need to clear out all the chametz in your house before the festival starts, but how far do you need to go?

Cleaning for Pesach is important, but it’s important not to mix it up with spring cleaning.

 What is the difference? Spring cleaning is taking down all the curtains, cleaning the mini-blinds, taking all the rugs out to be beaten, waging a war on dust, vacuuming everything, turning mattresses, emptying kitchen cabinets, wiping everything out, cleaning the lint trap in the dryer, washing the windows, and so on, and so on, and so on.

Pesach cleaning is about half of that.

About a month before Pesach – around Purim – I start cleaning things that have gotten dusty over the winter. I wipe off the window sills and run a squeegee over the windows, and … well … that’s it.  I try to spend the bulk of my time getting my guest list, menu, and shopping organized (see next weeks post).  The truth is that because I don’t have that much stuff, and because we clean weekly, our house simply isn’t loaded with chametz.

Then, a week and a half before Pesach, I do a thorough vacuum of the upstairs, including carpets. Then I have a quick organizing session with my kids, and remind them not to eat upstairs, and as a final step, I don’t buy any more snacks that are chametz, like pretzels, and switch to kitniyot snacks only, like popcorn.

Next, I clean out my two small pantry cabinets – one remains for chametz. This involves taking everything out, wiping down the shelves, and putting some clean cloths over one set of shelves. As I start to replace the items that I originally removed from the cabinets, I take this opportunity to chuck anything old that no longer has the smell  it should, along with any other food that is spoiled or otherwise unusable.  Admittedly, by this time, there is not a lot of food to put back, because about three weeks before Purim, I start using up everything I have so that I can start fresh after Pesach. This approach helps me keep track of how old food is in my pantry, and makes the pre-Pesach clear-out much easier. At the end of this cabinet-cleaning operation, I have one empty cabinet!

Because we sell our chametz, I don’t worry about the other cabinets much, except our silverware drawers, because I kasher my silverware to make it kosher for Pesach by dipping it in boiling water. If I have the time or inclination to clean these cabinets, I do; if not, I just put tape across the cabinet doors and forget about them.

I have a set of open shelves that I do clean for Pesach – it’s where we keep the toaster oven, mixer, and Cuisinart. I transfer those things to our storage room, which has a lot of free space anyway, but before Pesach has even more room available, because three of the boxes that are usually stored there are brought out for Pesach. Those boxes contain my Pesach dishes and glasses.

Next, I tackle the oven. We kasher the grates on the stove, give the stove a quick clean, cover it in foil, and use baking soda to clean the oven. This year, I will use my steam mop for the tough areas to clean, since mine has a removable steamer attached, and then I will wipe it down. Then for good measure I’ll turn it on to the highest setting for 20 minutes, just to make sure I “got it all”. Those of you have ovens with self-cleaning mode can use that – alas, I no longer have one! I do have a dishwasher, but we don’t use it on Pesach. That’s one less appliance to clean!

On to the fridge and freezer: as with the cabinets, I have been slowly trying to use up their contents, but I take everything whatever is still in there, including all shelves and fixtures. I wipe it clean, and fit all the things back into the freezer on one shelf, and chuck anything with freezer burn. Then I take some towels and cover up the part that has food in it.  In the fridge, I do the same: empty, wipe down, toss whatever is bad/gross, and put it all back in one area that I can easily cover, or I put it in a bag.

Now, we’ve arrived at the final task: counter tops and sinks. Ours are stone and porcelain, and we simply pour boiling water all over these and give them a good scrubbing – let me answer your next question before you even ask: why don’t I cover my porcelain sink? As luck would have it, we asked our rabbi whether we had to, and the rabbi said no!

You might have noticed that I haven’t addressed bathroom cleaning. We do clean, but simply for the sake of cleanliness, not specifically for Pesach. You’ll want to store medications that contain chametz in a hidden corner, but apart from that there’s no need to invest much time in the bathrooms or other locations within the house.

Feeling the clean yet? You should be, because that’s about all there is to it.  Doesn’t sound like such a big challenge, does it? Creating a timeline of cleaning and organization goals on your digital or paper calendar will significantly help ease the pre-Pesach stress and enable you to see the big picture.

If you want to have more free time, less clutter, and less stress before Pesach, get in touch with me today.

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