Oh Pesach. It’s the holiday that we either love, or love to hate. For some, this holiday conjures an image of anxiety, terror, and cold sweats. For many, the mere mention of Pesach brings up feelings of the deer in headlights. It’s the time of year that so many people simply dread and rightfully so! There is so much to do!
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way! There is another way! It is my hope that some of my tips can help make your Pesach preparations smoother and for you to enjoy the Yom Tov as opposed to feeling overwhelmed by it.
I’ve put together my top 10 Tips to help you get yourself more organized and to help shift your perspective about this holiday season.
1. Don’t Wing It, Plan It
There are two constants about Pesach. It always comes out the exact same time each year and the preparations for Pesach are always the same. Pesach’s never “early” or “late.” It is always the 15th of Nissan, exactly 4 weeks after Purim.
Planning is imperative. Think of your house as your corporation and you are its CEO. You are in charge. Just like a big company would plan out their functions, so too you want to work on “Project Pesach.”
When you have a plan in place, things will go much smoother.
2. Delegate To Your Team
As I said above, you are the CEO. Which means it is your job to delegate all the tasks with you being the supervisor. The more you delegate the better off you will be – hiring cleaning help or sending a spouse or teenager on shopping trips; even if you think the job is small and easy, the less on your plate the better.
3. Pesach Cleaning vs. Spring Cleaning
Imagine sitting down to a beautiful Pesach Seder – the house is sparkling clean, the chandeliers are glistening, the windows are sparkling… and you’re falling asleep. Chandeliers and windows, while lovely to have them sparkle and shine, are not imperative to Pesach cleaning. We love a perfectly clean house for Yom Tov, but they are not a priority.
Pesach cleaning is any place that there’s a very good chance that food was brought in. If you know there was NO food brought there, then it doesn’t have to be cleaned. Drapes, window treatments, chandeliers, do not have to be Pesach cleaned, and their dusting and cleaning can be pushed off if needed. Even food that’s been stuck on the wall, if it’s more dirt than food then it doesn’t have to be scrubbed. For something to be chametz, it needs to be edible and accessible. Ask your local Orthodox rabbi of course, but clean with Pesach in mind.
How to Pesach Clean with Little Kids:
(G-d willing soon I will have this challenge of how to clean with young children underfoot but until then, I had to consult others on their suggestions)
Age 5 and Under: Ship them out!!!! Hire a babysitter, volunteer your spouse and send them off to the playground / zoo / library / pizza shop. While they are out this is when you work on the playroom / play areas and kid bedrooms. Starting Rosh Chodesh Nissan, have only Kosher L’pesach snacks in the house (chips, macaroons, lady fingers, etc.). I consulted a friend of mine who lives in an apartment in Brooklyn with a few small children. She explained that her trick is that with her husband, they speed clean changing over the entire apartment in one or two nights while their kids are sleeping.
Age 6 and Over: Balaboostas in Training: Start giving them small jobs. Give them a spray bottle and a rag and have them wipe down various toys / surfaces. Keep your expectations low, and only give them jobs that it’s ok if it’s not done 100% to satisfaction. In the kitchen these little soldiers can do peeling, juicing, cracking nuts or other introductory jobs, similar to a Sous Chef. Know what kind of job your child can or cannot handle, and let them feel important too! (Consult my book for more suggestions on cleaning with small children.)
4. Poor Man’s Bread or Bread that Makes Us Poor?
Pesach is an expensive holiday. Matzah is far from cheap, cases of wine to be bought, fruits and vegetables…the list goes on and on.
For starters, matzah does NOT have to be the mainstay of your meal. You need Matzah for the Sedarim and for Hamotzi and that is all. Fruits and vegetables that are in season are much cheaper.
Spread out your Pesach shopping so you are not attacked with a big bill all in one week. You can purchase non-perishable items and store them, leaving the perishables for the week of Pesach.
Buying a kosher l’Pesach jar of applesauce will be much more expensive than simmering a pot of apples and making your own.
Don’t just browse the aisles in the grocery store. Create your menu, make your shopping list and stick to it! Cross reference your lists from the previous Pesach so you know how much you really need and use.
Keep in mind: “Is this something I really need, or is this a luxury item?” This will help curb any impulse buys.
Join together with a family member or neighbor and split cases of food items. You will save on the price and still have as many as you need.
5. Don’t Buy an Entire Kitchen Your First Year
There is a big difference between what you NEED for Pesach and what you WANT for Build up your Pesach kitchen appliances slowly. Start with just the few crucial items the first year and each year buy a few more things. In my Pesach book, I discuss in more detail the path to building up your Pesach kitchen items.
6. Your Best Friend Is Your List
From a Cleaning List to a detailed Shopping Lists, from Last Minute Reminders to Menus, lists will save your life. Don’t let the mental to-do list overwhelm you – get it all down on paper and rest assured that nothing will be forgotten. Keep everything in a folder or a binder, and you will feel a lot more together in no time.
7. Pesach Doesn’t Have to Be Magazine Worthy
While half the world believes that everything has to be over the top thanks to full color magazine spreads designed by party planners, the other half of the world is recognizing the wonder and ease of simplifying. I’m not saying you shouldn’t plan a new and fancy dish here and there or come up with a cool centerpiece. (Have you seen the one where Yetzias Mitzrayim was recreated with little menchies across the center of a dining room table?)
The fact remains that Pesach doesn’t have to be gourmet. Allow the concept of “simplify” to permeate other aspects of the holiday as well. If you have a Pesach kitchen, or make time to kasher a few days early, you can cook everything in advance and freeze, or spread out the cooking over Yom Tov. Some people will prep their dishes and freeze them raw, so they’re able to pull things out before the meal and cook it fresh. Figure out a system that works for you so you feel less stressed.
8. Leave the Bitterness to the Marror (Feeling Resentful)
My next two tips are similar, like two sides of a coin. They are about how our attitude and perspective can shape our entire Yom Tov experience. Dr. Wayne Dyer has a popular quote: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
The last thing we want is to have a chip on our shoulder when it comes to our traditions. Our family, especially our children WILL pick up on the resentment and negativity. They will come to see the holiday as a drag, something we hate instead of love and anticipate. If you do feel resentful about the amount of work that goes into Yom Tov preparations, then something needs to change ASAP.
There isn’t a magical pill that will help you suddenly see Yom Tov as a breeze, but perhaps a small first step is to begin to shift your thinking from “yet another thing I have to do” to a place of “we have an opportunity here.” The goal isn’t the perfect gourmet meals, or how spotless the house is. Let’s try and remember what’s really important about Pesach. The Sedarim, with your family and loved ones, enjoying this precious time together, that is the goal.
9. Creating Fun while Creating Traditions
Once you’ve removed any feelings of resentment and negativity about the holiday, it’s now time to infuse your Yom Tov with fun!!
My mother in law makes a Pesach Orange Soup. She’s been making it for years. It’s just not Pesach without this soup. All the married children make this soup now because it’s a tradition. You may think, who cares, it’s just soup … or it’s just your Bubby’s potato kugel recipe, or the annual Chol Hamoed trip to the park. Au Contraire! These are exactly the things that can make Pesach special.
When there is fun, there is joy. Here are some ideas to get you in the mood:
a. Putting music on when cleaning makes it into a Dusting Dance Party
b. Giving out prizes (to yourself as well) for accomplishing specific tasks
c. Slurpee runs at the end of the day
d. Special new toy for the holiday
e. Write down funny memories that happened over Yom Tov
f. Create photo contests with friends or family members: “Funniest items found during Pesach Cleaning.”
You can make any job you’re doing into a game. You just need a little creativity. Think of yourself as a camp counselor cheering on her bunk!
10. When All is Said and Done, Get It In Writing!
Pesach is over and the last thing you want to do is look at one more list, let alone go through it. But, this is so crucial!!! Motzei Pesach, while the dishes are being washed and put away, take out your shopping lists and menus and write everything down. Write down what worked, what didn’t work. If you ordered too much Matzah or not enough. This can and will potentially save you lots of money because you’ll know how much your family really needs for Yom Tov.
Write down that the trip to the zoo didn’t work or the trip to the museum did work. Write down that new trick you came up with to help the kids enjoy the Seder. Write down that your kvort (washing cup) cracked and you will need a new one for next year.
One of the biggest and most important tips is this last one. Imagine pulling out your Pesach binder and seeing all this information ready for you from last year. Your plans will be so much easier and smoother when half the mental work is already completed.
There are many different ways to approach the holiday and far be it from me to tell you the one “right” way (it doesn’t exist.) My point is if you find yourself stressed and frazzled and falling asleep at the Seder, then time to re-assess and come up with a new way of doing things. Yes, it can take some time to figure out what works best for you and your family, but once you have it down to a science, it’s smooth sailing!
Good Luck, Happy Cleaning and a Kosher & Frelichen Pesach!
Duby Litvin lives in Louisville, KY and is the creator of “Duby’s Pesach Lists”, a guide filled with any and every list imaginable to help you get organized for Pesach. For more information visit DubysPesachLists.com and download or order your own copy today! [Editor’s Note: I have been faithfully using Duby’s Pesach Lists for three years and counting! I have a special Pesach Binder and each page is ensconced in a plastic sheet protector. As someone who has been making Pesach for the past seven years, this list is an invaluable tool for a well-planned and calm Yom Tov! –DF]