As soon as we are finished putting away our Purim costumes, I feel like I have to begin preparing for Pesach! Somehow, it seems to sneak up on me every year. How do I make preparations less harried in the four weeks between Purim and Pesach?
First off, girlfriend, you are not alone. I think most of us wake up the morning after Purim, hung over from too many hamantashen (triangular cookies), too much sugar, and multiple frenzied deliveries of shalach manos (Purim gift baskets, also referred to as mishloach manot). We all talk about the cruel joke of getting lots of food baskets that we must frantically get rid of in a mere four weeks, which involves stuffing our kids full of junk food, throwing out good food, and/or eating the stuff ourselves, right? I personally like option three, but I can’t work out enough to justify eating all that nosh, sigh.
Anyway, putting aside this conundrum for a moment (or forever), let’s get down to business. First off, I also have had that feeling that Pesach is suddenly upon me and I am not prepared. I think we focus so much on preparing for Purim that Pesach seems to be somewhere in the distant future. I recommend for next year making a mental note to remind yourself that Pesach comes at the same time every year. And preparations can start as early as you want.
For example, I like to clean out some cupboards and drawers in my kitchen as early as January so I feel like that is mostly done. I also take stock of kids’ clothes, making note of what I might need for Pesach (this year, we are going someplace cold, so I told my girls they get to wear their Rosh Hashanah dresses, score!) Another thing you might do is go through your Pesach boxes and see what you have, what you need, and what you can get rid of. Then shore up your supplies. Those kinds of things are doable way in advance.
Google “lists of Pesach chores,” or “how to make Pesach,” and see what pops up. There are a lot of good ideas. Now is the time to also develop your own lists, and hang on to them for next year. Store them in your Pesach boxes and voila! Next year you are good to go. These can be as detailed as you want — the more the better. This includes timelines, menus, and, after the holiday is over, quick notes on what went right (and wrong).
Finally, get help. If you can afford a cleaning service, have them do a lot of the cleaning, and have them come more than once if you can. Assign specific tasks that will help you kasher (to render kitchen utensils and appliances used during the year permissible for use during Pesach. Go to Chabad.org to learn more.) If you can’t afford a cleaning service, space out the tasks over time so you don’t find yourself rushing at the last minute.
If you have kids who are old enough to understand instructions, enlist their help. If you have spoiled children like mine who don’t clean very well, still make them do stuff, but try to tailor it to their strengths. For example, a child who enjoys cooking can start working on menus and shopping lists. Older kids can schlep and shop for you, and help you kasher the kitchen. You get the gist. Delegate as much as possible.
And try to do some learning vis-a-vis the holiday. This helps put it in perspective. I mean, Jews are in slavery, baby Moshe is saved, he is taken in and raised by Pharaoh (what are the odds?), Hashem makes plagues against the Egyptians, the women make sure a new generation of Jews is born, and, the big kahuna — yetzias Mitzrayim (the exodus from Egypt)! And these are just a few of the things that happened. It really is amazing, if you think about it. Set the goal to come up with at least one dvar Torah (words of Torah) you can share with the family. Your kids will be super impressed.
And yes, Pesach prep and cleaning can be stressful, but keep reminding yourself of the bigger picture. Enjoy the opportunity to organize your life and your kitchen a little. Try some new recipes. Relish spending time with your kids: big, little, and out of the house. Remember, we were freed from slavery. Don’t make yourself a slave to Pesach.
All the best,