There are many ways to make Pesach. None of them have to involve tears, extreme fatigue, or a week of pizza bagels. In this column we’ll meet women with vastly different methods, but who all share the goal of reaching Pesach calmly and happily.
Name: Malky Katz*
Been making Pesach for: 31 years, minus 4 or 5
Motto: Getting a head start makes jobs more pleasant and removes pressure
Last things… first?
The kitchen is critical, so it gets done first. Everything else — if I have to lock up a closet, I’ll lock it up. If I don’t vacuum the mattresses, that’s fine. But there’s no getting around those kitchen jobs, and having the foresight to do things early, keeps the kitchen from getting overwhelming.
I start about six weeks before Pesach… in the kitchen. One week I deal with the area around the stove, scrub the grease, then cover everything with foil, which I remove right before Pesach. The next week, I’ll scrub a couple cabinets, then empty one of them, storing everything in the other cabinet. Then, I put plastic on the table, take out the Pesach things, line the empty cabinet, put in the Pesach things, close the cabinet, and seal it with foil or a plastic tablecloth, and have one cabinet ready for Pesach.
I do one major job like this each week. I learned early on which jobs made me crazy — and it was needing to do all of those things at the end that made making Pesach tedious and pressured — so I started doing them bit by bit, breaking down overwhelming jobs into smaller pieces.
About three weeks before Pesach, I kasher the pareve side of my kitchen and wash everything with bleach. I take down the Pesachdig food processor, make the gefilte fish mixture, wrap it, and put it in the freezer. Then I take plastic tablecloths and cover that section of the kitchen, from the tops of the upper cabinets to the floor. Nothing can jump past plastic! I’m not afraid — there’s no fear in my system.
Managing the chometz
A week before Purim I take an inventory of my grocery cabinets and freezer. We make a chometz box around Purim time, with all of the chometz we want to use up. I do my freezers right after Purim so that I can get meat and chicken orders in early. Anything that’s not kosher l’Pesach but isn’t real chometz I wrap before putting back in the freezer, and my freezer is done. Right before Pesach I unplug it again and give it a quick wash, but it takes me minutes, not hours. There is a certain amount of redoing with my system, but it’s worth it.
I also cook all the Shabbosim till Shabbos Hagadol around Purim time, and freeze them. I try to cook some weekday suppers, too. About two weeks before Pesach, we move the chometz box into the living room and eat there. I set up a small kitchen, with a toaster, a kettle, and a small table. Later we move the box into the yard and eat there for a day or two. Those few days eating outdoors are not so geshmak but they eliminate the need for nerves.
The Rest of the House
The kitchen is static — you have to do the same thing however old your children are — but the rest of the house changes. As a younger mother it was a bigger job. I used to take a cleaning service for eight hours. In that one day they would do all four bedrooms, and they would put everything into the living room. It took a week to put the house back together! I learned if you do too much too quickly, it’s too chaotic. Now I have older children, and their rooms are their responsibility — although I will remind them what needs to be done.
Getting Ready To Get Ready
From Shevat to Adar, I organize. If we need to paint, it gets done before Adar. By early Adar, my shed needs to be clean so that I have an organized place to store things as I clean.
I remember being on my sewing machine on Erev Yom Yov. I learned that kids’ clothing should be done in Shevat, when you’re not so busy and the stores aren’t packed. A mother with little kids shouldn’t be in the store in Nissan! When the kids were little, two to three weeks before Yom Tov, I used to take all their Shabbos clothing, wash, iron, and mend it. Then, I’d hang it in a different room and know it was done. Till then, on Shabbos, they could just wear a white shirt and dark pants or skirt.
Between Rosh Chodesh Nissan and Pesach I make a schedule, filling in a calendar of what must be done each day. I know it takes a few days to turn over, and I want to start cooking a week before Pesach so I plan accordingly. But I don’t want to have panic if someone walks into the kitchen with a roll. There shouldn’t be any of that! People are more important than things. So we don’t cover the counters till the day before we turn over. My whole system is based around avoiding that feeling of pressure or dread: I don’t want screaming.
I stagger the schedule so there are never two major days in a row — things always come up, and you can’t let one off day throw everything off. At the end of each day, I clean up the mess from that day’s cleaning and put a load of shmattehs in the washing machine. Those last two weeks can be intense, but they’re doable.
It’s very hard for women to stick to halachah. Don’t be hard on yourself if you have that taavah Hashem gave you to beautify your home, just keep it on track. It’s not bad to be able to wash curtains and iron them. You just need to think: Is it worth the pressure on Yud Nissan? Will I get sick, yell at my kids, keep my husband from learning? Organization, an early start, and prioritizing enable you to get to those niceties — and they’re nice!
(Originally featured in Family First Issue 485)
Oops! We could not locate your form.