guest post · Mesorah (Jewish stuff)

Crowdsourced Pesach Tips

chometz - be gone!

It’s starting to feel like crunch time over here (and I’m not talking about all that matzah we will soon be eating).  It’s that time when I’m no longer purchasing chometz.  I’m getting creative with my dinner ideas, using up whatever is hanging around my pantry (and still edible).  And, of course, I’m cleaning and planning.

Pesach is almost here!


Last week my friend Brina shared some of her tried and true advice.  Today I’m going to share some crowd-sourcing wisdom from my Facebook friends.  A couple weeks ago I polled my fabulous friends for posts, suggestions, tips, anything.    Here are their nuggets of wisdom and experience:

from Leah

When my kids were little, I basically covered everything in foil, locked up the cabinets, and did paper and plastic. I tried to make it easy on myself. I also did not bake very much, just cooked a whole bunch of easy food.

from Emily: 

The single best thing I ever did was take a class on the real laws of cleaning for Pesach from a Rabbi where I used to live.  It is amazing how much people confuse “Spring Cleaning” and “Cleaning for Pesach.”  Once you really know the laws, you feel a weight lifted off of your shoulders and you realize you don’t need to start cleaning 8 weeks ahead of time.

As far as the seders go, go small with small kids.  It’s all great to want to tell the story and get them involved, and you can do that as long as it doesn’t go too late.  I know some families go nearly all night, and that is great, but that NEVER worked for us.  The kids became nightmares.  So do little things that get them involved:  paper bag puppets of the main players, little doodads like plastic frogs in the water glasses, model animals on the table–that kind of thing.

Also, pick a good hagaddah, one that has meaningful stories for both you and the kids.  Accept the fact that they will probably not make it through, and know that it is a far better education to have them in a warm and loving home than a home where the parents are rushing or forcing the kids to stay awake.  Everyone is different, but that has worked for us and we had the added bonus of my husband being in [medical] residency for the first two sedarim, so I was completely on my own and he was cranky and exhausted.

from Heather:

I do one room at a time— this week I’ll do the attic, and then no more chametz allowed in the attic. Next week I’ll do the bedrooms, etc etc until the only place chametz is allowed is the kitchen/dining area. Then those get a last minute cram session.

from Yonit: 

I have a journal I update every year of what I bought, what we used, what I made, who came to meals. This way I have an idea of how much to buy. Also, my rule is: if a toy can’t be thrown in a soapy bathtub or in the washing machine, it gets locked up for Pesach. I might buy a couple of new things from Big lots to “make up for” the lack .  Right now I have a puzzle in the closet waiting!

from Ohio Kosher:

Have to quote the Lubavitcher Rebbe here with the best advice- “Dust is not chometz, and the kids aren’t the Korbon Pesach!” [the Pesach offering]

from Chavi:

Get invited out for all the first day meals so you don’t have to clean and kasher until just a few days before – seriously! That is the only way we have made Pesach so far and it’s been great.

from Devorah:

When you have little kids, you really have to clean last minute because you can’t count on them not to bring a bagel into a room you already cleaned!  Also, I second the Lubavitcher Rebbe quote.  Don’t be so “holy” that you think cleaning for Pesach means being a crazy lady.

from Amy:

How about, “If you take food out of the dining room, I’ll sell you to the gypsies.”

Honestly, I clean starting the farthest from the dining room and moving closer the closer it gets to Pesach. I make loud announcements about where has been cleaned.  I have to keep a closer eye on my toddler, because he likes to grab food and wander.  In the past, at some point I usually switch to just kitnios, but that will be harder given his limited diet and extreme pickyness.

I also would not survive making Pesach if it weren’t for my lists.  I have a list of everything that has to be cleaned, by room, plus the extra to-do list like cars, getting the kittel washed and ironed, taking suits to the cleaners, etc. I have shopping lists with notes, etc.  I make notes during chol homoed and after Pesach so next year’s list is the updated (don’t buy more than x amount of y; the best place to get milk is z, etc.)

Echoing something Emily mentioned, I was on bedrest before Pesach one year.  Matt took my cleaning lists to our Rabbi, and the Rav just started crossing stuff off it because it was unnecessary.  So now I know which stuff that is nice to do if I have time, but not necessary.  I also try to schedule things week by week, starting a couple weeks before Pesach, so it doesn’t get overwhelming.

from Miriam:

I have a full system for little hands and chametz. It involved one essential piece of equipment:  Baby gates! When my kids were younger I did the main floor of the house in no more then two weeks and would section off the eating areas from the cleaning areas. This was so helpful. I still put up the gates now that my youngest is six because they can’t ‘forget’ like that.

from Chaya in Baltimore:

I think even when you do bare minimum it is very challenging.  I do NOT combine spring cleaning with Pesach cleaning, but the sheer amount that has to be done, in a short amount of time, (clean fridge, oven, stove, bring up Pesach boxes, kasher, cover, cook, etc. etc.) is often overwhelming.  Finances allowing, I recommend taking advantage of Pesach camps.  I can work with a clearer head without a child vying for my attention. I agree that we have to be so careful not to “lose it” with our kids.  I buy Pesachdik or kitnios snacks for week before.  I also have my Pesach notebook with lists from year to year.  Helps keep me organized and thinking straight.

I do want to mention that on erev Pesach itself, it’s important to remember to make food for the day.  We get so busy cooking for Pesach, can’t eat chometz anymore, can’t eat matzoh, and suddenly we’re all starving.  Recipe for disaster!  So either cook a little extra, or buy something so tummies will be full on what is probably the busiest day of the year!

One more note.  I would want to share the “mood” of it all.  When my oldest was a baby, say 3 and under, I was basically doing the work solo, just getting the chores done, but once she started to understand, there are certain parts of the preparation that actually became nice.  Like going together to vacuum car, “looking” for chometz behind couch, etc. etc.

I understand that people would want to buy seder plate ready, but the preparation last year was beautiful.  As I roasted the shankbone, talking to daughter about Beis Hamikdosh, having her take whiff of marror when grinding it, and her running out of kitchen.

Amongst the hardships of all the preparation I felt I was able to capture really nice moments.  And this is all part of transmitting the Mesorah (Heritage) to the next generation.  The sights, sounds, smells, stay with us forever and are often stronger than any “textbook” knowledge of our Exodus from Egypt.

from Chaya in Cleveland:

I used to clean out clothes closets and wonder why.  Then I found cookies in the children’s closet.  As they grew older, I stopped dealing with the clothes before Pesach–we still need warm clothes, anyway.

You’ll have to clean areas where the children–both minor and adult–may be bringing chometz.  I work my way towards the kitchen: Clean the living room, because we do nosh in there; work on the shelves in the dining room, such as putting away challah covers, except for one, bag the bentchers.  Start boxing or bagging things from the kitchen that you can do without for a few weeks. Can you skip baking for the duration? Put away pans and ingredients and start cleaning those shelves.

Start using up the UFOs-unidentified frozen objects.  I clean the refrigerator in advance, and cover the shelves with paper towels, so I can replace the chometz food, then remove the paper towels before putting in the Pesach-dik food.
I also make lists at the end of Pesach so I don’t have to buy things like spices, cocoa, plastic wrap, candles, unused jarred or canned foods when they will keep from year to year.

Another thing I do is cook the meals the day before Erev Pesach. That’s for those of us who don’t change the kitchen over ten days before the holiday.  On ErevYom Tov, I make the items for the Seder plate, set the table, make a lunch, polish the silver.

from Rivka:

I keep lists from year to year, for shopping and cleaning.  I found that a middle grade, large food processor is a MUST for this holiday where I cook almost everything from scratch. We have an opportunity to go away for Pesach this year but I said NO, because otherwise our house will remain dirty for another year! I use this time for spring cleaning even though  I don’t have to.  However, last year when I had a baby end of Adar 2 [the month before Pesach], we did the bare minimum.

from Shimona:

ORDER THE SEDER!!!! I’m telling you, last year was my first year doing it.  It came with a ton of food: seder plate, matza, etc.  It and wasn’t that expensive.  I’ve already ordered for this year.  The food isn’t as good as making it yourself, but who cares?  It’s as if I have prepared all this stuff already.  Woohoo!

from Alan:

My wife buys special toys just for Pesach.  Just a few each year and then they are PUT AWAY.  While she is washing the dishes to be put away at the end, it is the kids’ jobs to find all the missing pieces to the toys and put them in the bin which will come out the next year only when the kitchen is flipped.  Then she can cook in peace.  As the kids get older it is cute to watch them “teach” the younger ones how to use them again.

from Mandy:

One important tip – If a family is going away for Pesach to a retreat or to other family… to still clean their own home. Close family friends of ours go away EVERY year and always clean their homes ( all 20 of them.. 3 families )… a few years ago, one of them fell seriously ill while away and the whole family had to all go home immediately.

Well, there you have it  A wide variety of advice, which hopefully was helpful on some level.  Now I have to go get to it!

What are your additions?  Any pieces of great advice or wisdom that really stand out in your experience?

14 thoughts on “Crowdsourced Pesach Tips

  1. This is a wonderful digest of wisdom. I have nothing to add, but I really support the mention of focusing on what is important–and trying to stay sane and happy for your family. And thanks, Amy, I had forgotten about the kittel! I’m on it!

  2. sell whatever you can! i didnt feel like cleaning the dining table chairs, sold them and bought keter plastic chairs – they are handy to have around year-round and easy to clean. whatever we don’t get too we cover in plastic or paper and add a sign: sold for pesach.

    1. That’s fantastic about the chairs. We have seriously limited storage options this year, so I’ll have to be creative with where I store stuff.

    1. Fabulous advice. I find it difficult sometimes to differentiate between necessary and un-. Sometimes I get very caught up in the details and lose sight of the mantra.

  3. Awesome tips, and I love the quote from the Lubavitcher Rebbe – I might write that and post it in my kitchen as a reminder.

    Thanks for the nudge. I actually washed out my fridge today!

    1. Good job on the fridge cleaning! Woot! It’s a fantastic mantra, and I think it applies to way more in life than just Pesach prep, you know?

  4. These are great tips. I especially appreciate the calls for sanity. sometimes I find the “fences around the Torah” “laws” to be the thing that makes it nearly impossible to #1 enjoy and/or #2 keep some of the holiday(s).

  5. For this year the advice “Get invited out for all the first day meals so you don’t have to clean and kasher until just a few days before – seriously! That is the only way we have made Pesach so far and it’s been great.” shall not work and would bring other people in danger of infection.

    Social distancing and staying at home when not otherwise necessary is the best advice to protect all people.

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