Reasoning that it is easier to keep chometz out of the
bedrooms then out of the kitchen, I used to plan to start
from the periphery and gradually zero in on the
chometz. Right after Purim, I would descend on one of
the bedrooms-- sorting, scrubbing and arranging the contents
of shelves, drawers and closets.
One year, I even organized all the books in one bedroom by
topic. I annually went through all the papers that had
accumulated in my closet dawer. After all, it was only Adar;
there was still plenty of time. I allowed a week for each
bedroom and a week for the kitchen.
It was all very logical and reasonable. The only problem was,
it didn't work. For one thing, with all that spring cleaning
I tried to accomplish, I was always behind schedule and the
bedrooms were not finished by the time I was scheduled to
start the kitchen. Then, too, the children's bedrooms are
very hard to keep chometz-free until the last minute.
So that was also added to the last week's work. And, most
important, one week is not enough to clean the entire
kitchen, especially a week in which you also have to kasher
the kitchen, cook for Yom Tov and shop for perishables for
Pesach -- unless you have a whole staff of people sharing the
The last week before Pesach found me working around the
clock, desperately looking for a cleaning lady with a few
hours to spare -- very rare. And the kitchen, bathroom and
porch were cluttered with refrigerator shelves, cabinet
drawers and stove parts in various stages of being cleaned.
The kitchen was never ready to be kashered until the last
minute, leaving me only Erev Pesach to frantically cook for
the seder and the first day of Yom Tov.
During the ensuing years, I thought about these problems,
spoke to other women with experience, and developed my Pesach
The kitchen is the most important. Don't leave all of
it for last!
Now I allot some time to the kitchen each week and some time
to the rest of the house. Working backwards from Erev Pesach,
I allow two days for cooking, one day for setting up the
kitchen, unpacking Pesach dishes and groceries, lining
refrigerator, stove and counters, and shopping for
perishables, and one day for kashering the kitchen. Then I
count three weeks back from there. In the first week, I clean
the freezer and one third of my cabinets. The second week I
clean the refrigerator and another third of the cabinets, and
the third week -- the stove and the remaining cabinets.
You're probably wondering how you can clean your freezer
three weeks before Pesach and your refrigerator two weeks
before? There's still chometz inside! That brings us
to the next principle: The fact that you're still using
something doesn't mean you can't clean it. You just have
to figure out a way to KEEP it clean.
One method is covering or lining (e.g. top of fridge, floor
of freezer), another is enclosing chometz in
containers. After I clean my freezer, I tape a piece of
masking tape over the seam at the lower front where all the
crumbs seem to accumulate. Anything that's not actual
chometz (meat, chicken, frozen vegetables) plus
anything in closed packages (e.g. frozen dough, fish sticks,
packages of borekas) goes on the upper shelves. Then I take
some shoe boxes or plastic freezer boxes and put all the
crumby chometz (cake, bread etc.) inside, wrapped in
zip-loc bags, and put that on the bottom shelf, which I have
lined with shelving paper. In the last week before Pesach,
all that needs to be done is to remove the tape and lightly
go over the shelves with a damp rag.
Another advantage of cleaning the freezer early is that you
can buy your meat order early, say around Rosh Chodesh, keep
it on the top shelves (which by this time have hopefully
emptied out) and have that good feeling of knowing that
you're stocked for Yom Tov.
Another advantage is that you know what chometz is in
your freezer, and can plan both to take advantage of it for
quick meals in the pre-Pesach weeks, and also use it up,
instead of being stuck on the Sunday before Pesach with
frozen challas and two packages of frozen pizza, with your
milchig toaster oven already clean and no way to warm
The freezer is just one example. This principle also applies
to cabinets, refrigerators and even your dining room table
and high chair.
Get a hold of Rabbi Sheinberg's instructions for Pesach
cleaning. He explains what has to be cleaned according to
Halacha, and what's optional, i.e. spring cleaning, and also
how to clean and kasher various items and appliances.
If you're behind schedule, skip the spring cleaning for the
rest of that week and stick to the Pesach cleaning. Then if
you find you have extra time at the end (ha, ha), you can go
back and do some of the things you skipped.
Actually, this strategy should have been done from Rosh
Chodesh Adar. File away in your memory and get a head start
Starting from Tu Bishvat, perhaps, is the time to indulge in
things like weeding out the undesirables from your wardrobe,
sorting out your back issues of newspapers and periodicals,
and filing away your bills from the past year. Remember, too,
that many clothing gemachs and geniza
receptacles are so full by the time Purim comes that they
stop accepting stuff. When this type of work is done in a
relaxed, non- pressured frame of mind, it can actually be