Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Spring cleaning, Jewish style

In Jewish homes, spring cleaning - better known as Pesach or Passover cleaning - has an extra spin, because it focuses on locating and getting rid of chametz. Chametz, any products that may not be consumed during Pesach, and even traces of them, must be removed from one's house and car. This means Jewish housewives spend a considerable amount of time during spring hunting for that lone breadcrumb from six months ago.

These days, I can reasonably catch up on day-to-day tasks, such as dishes, laundry, garbage, watering the plants, fixing up simple meals, and changing the bedding. The challenge begins when we're talking about doing more than that. I am optimistic, however, and believe that with careful planning and organization, a bit done every day, and some help from my husband, our home can be kosher for Passover in due time.

Today, I sat down to write a cleaning to-do list for the different areas in our house. Cleaning-wise, I'm happy our house is so very small - we only have two bedrooms - though it does require lots and lots of creativity with our storage space. I'm pretty sure that as I begin, I will find more to do, and perhaps my husband will suggest things I forgot, but here is my initial list:

Our bedroom

- re-arrange closet and look for chametz in pockets, wipe shelves and drawers.
- re-arrange bedside tables and clean drawers.
- get bedside tables out of the room and clean behind them.
- wash floor.
- clean all surfaces.

Second bedroom

- check the food drawers and concentrate all chametz in one place. (Clarification - due to limited storage space in my kitchen, I store some of our stockpile in the second bedroom)
- clean drawers.
- clean shoes. (there might easily be traces of chametz on the soles)
- wash floor.
- clean all surfaces.

Living room

- vacuum all furniture, wash covers.
- move furniture and clean behind them.
- clean all drawers and surfaces.
- wash floor.
- prepare new tablecloth.

Kitchen (the biggest purging-for-Pesach challenge!)

- clean and re-arrange refrigerator and freezer, concentrate chametz in one place.
- re-arrange kitchen cabinets.
- clean behind and under the stove, microwave, and oven.
- clean under Shabbat hot plate.
- clean all surfaces and sink.
- wash trash can with boiling water and detergent.

Bathroom, toilet and utility room

- clean bathtub.
- clean bathroom sink.
- clean toilet.
- re-arrange utility room.

There's more!

- sweep and vacuum.
- wash floors.
- wash windows and mirrors.
- clean lamps and remove cobwebs. (For some reason spiders love our home, I clean out cobwebs every week or so)
- clean out the inside of our car.
- buy new toothbrushes. (There's traces of chametz too, you know)
- prepare clean bedding.
- get rid of clutter, junk and old papers!

So there... if I spread this over the next few weeks, it looks like a realistic plan for a busy new Mom, doesn't it?


Ways of Zion said...

You're highlighted part about the clutter and papers made me giggle...that is completely our problem too! thanks for posting this list. I may borrow it for our spring cleaning. For those who do not have the combined Pesach cleaning as well, it is still good to clean out all the pockets and buy new toothbrushes!

Lovely post, thanks! Now "maybe" I will be inspried to clean out the basement...OY!

Mrs. Anna T said...

About the junk and clutter: consider that we have been living here only a few months, and I threw out lots of trash when we moved! And still... it just seems to breed.

Linda said...

Don't you think the Lord was being such a genius when he made the rules for pesach cleaning?

He simply stated one should remove anything soured. (or: remove all bread crumbs)

He could have spent pages and pages explaining how to properly clean every room, but He simply said : remove all crumbs. Well, that pretty much sums up the whole thing ;) Absolutely genius!

Greetings from the netherlands!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Linda: I never thought of it that way, but you're right, haha!

may said...

Your plan is great.

A friend of mine, who is Orthodox, enjoys cleaning for Pesach and now gets her children to help her and do their own rooms (they're 6 and 10) to teach them to contribute to the family and take part in the event so I suppose that once you've made your plan you can adapt it from year to year for your family as it grows.

Given that you presumably stockpile grains of different kinds, have you already planned how you're going to use them all up? Or have you done so already?

Good luck on de-cluttering though. I swear paper breeds whilst we're not looking!

Anonymous said...

How funny, I'm doing a spring cleaning series on my blog!

Persuaded said...

my dear, it sounds like a very *industrious* plan for a new mama;)

Shorty said...

this is great! I kind of imagine if one doesn't have kids (yet - grin!) that the hidden hametz "surprises" must be fewer.

We also had to get our house "sale ready" i had to clean declutter, in the rooms and i guess Hashem gave me a good head start ;)

Chelsea said...

Oh my goodness! That looks overwhelming! I really admire your positive can-do attitude.

Question: When you say concentrate chametz, is that just so you know how much you have so you can plan to use it? Or is there some place you can keep it over Passover?

Anonymous said...


I usually start my cleaning right after our anniversary. (March 12th) It gives me plenty of time to get it all done. While not Jewish, we do keep Gods Holy days. I have never though of cleaning shoes....but so true!
What items to you consider chametz?

Mrs. Anna T said...

Chelsea, it's so we can use up as much as possible, and dispose of the rest right before Pesach.

Tracy said...

I'm tired just reading this post. It makes want me consider what I want to do for spring cleaning!

Mrs. Amy @ Clothesline Alley said...

Your plan is nice & realistic, Anna. I need to get into gear and write out my cleaning plan. There is something so lovely about having a freshly deep-cleaned home every spring. :o)

Betsy said...

Just out of curiosity, how do you celebrate Pesach without eating meat? Is not eating the lamb part of the memorial of God providing a way for the Israelite firstborns to be saved?

The Author said...

We haven't even made a list for our Pesach cleaning! i need to get started on my room!

Everybody's Mama said...

I had no idea it was so involved! I find it fascinating how following God's ways has such practical, healthy benefits! This gives me a lot to think about. I want my home to be a welcoming place for the Lord. I want His presence to be felt! When the housework and clutter is out of control I feel no peace, just a feeling of unrest and nervousness, That isn't from the Lord. Yes, definitely a lot to meditate upon. Thank you! :)

Raven said...

About the spiders-- if you can borrow someone's lizard, like a gecko, it will eat them all for you. :) Or you could let chickens in the house, but that would be a lot messier than a lizard.

Clamorous Voice said...

I really liked this post, so I went and read a bit more about what's considered 'chametz'. Do you also avoid things that are kitnyiot? Forgive my ignorance, please!

Bethany Hudson said...

I do love Spring Cleaning time...but I often feel it's a little daunting when I get that list made. I'm working on my schedule this week. :)

Anonymous said...

You'll be fine, I'm sure. It looks as though you have a good plan so that you don't feel overwhelmed by trying to get your cleaning done in too short a time. I remember reading someplace once about how a little game is played in some Jewish households, to get the children in on this cleaning: the parents would lead the family from room to room, and allow the children to find the chametz (which had been placed in some obvious places!), & a reward was given to whichever child had found the most. Perhaps you & your husband will play such a "getting ready for Passover" game someday with Shira?....

wishing you well, & thinking of you & your family-


Tamsen said...

Though not Jewish, it sounds like a good Pesach cleaning is just what my house needs, lol. I've been totally wrapped up in my babies, and there are literally piles of stuff everywhere. Thank goodness most of it has a place, I just need to gather it and get it back there. And yes, a lot of it simply needs to go!

Julia said...


Mrs Bonnie K said...

I have alot of admiration for you, just reading that list exhausts me (in my defense I am pregnant).

Even though I am not Jewish your post has inpsired me to start dealing with all the clutter that has started to accumulate and get rid of it before the baby arrives!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Clamorous Voice,

We eat kitniyoit during Pesach - my husband is Sephardi.

John and Debi said...

Wow ! What a great plan. Thank you for sharing this. I am grateful you post your Jewish culture for all of us to read--it is so interesting to me and I delight thinking about it ! Do Jewish homes have carpeting ? I was just vacuuming all the crumbs on our rug that sits under the dinner table and thought about how much "chametz" is under there !! What do Jewish housewives do about that ?? I suppose I could take the rug out and beat it. Blessings to you and yours. Deborah

Johanna said...

I had to chuckle when I read the comment about borrowing a lizzard. About a year after we moved into our house, we started noticing lots of lizzards coming in. At first it bothered me and I tried to chase them out (in vain I might add). However, I noticed after a while that when the lizzard were around, the bugs weren't! We no longer have to hire an exterminator ever because the lizzards have found our home. Plus, they provide great entertainment for our cat! :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, great article. I know the Lord is so wise to sum up what needs to be done in spring cleaning, one simple commandment - remove leaven from the home! Well will try this

thank you,