June 21, 2024
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How to Clean for Pesach In Three Easy Months

I would consider myself somewhat of a cleaning expert. My house isn’t the cleanest, but I’ve definitely spent thousands upon thousands of hours thinking about cleaning. It’s just the math, at this point.

But that brings us to Pesach. A lot of people get stressed out by the thought of cleaning their entire homes, so they look for advice on how to do it, because thinking about cleaning is way more up our alley than actually cleaning. And that’s why I’m here.

For starters, many rabbis say that most of the things we do to clean for Pesach have nothing to do with Pesach. For example, they point out, getting rid of clothes that no longer fit our kids and passing them on to a neighbor who just finished going through her kids’ closets has nothing to do with Pesach.

I’m not sure they’re right, though. On the very first Pesach, everyone left Mitzrayim, so No. 1: There’s no way they were schlepping things that they knew for a fact they weren’t going to wear anymore, and No. 2: The Torah itself says they were going to neighbors and exchanging clothes. Maybe this has nothing to do with Pesach cleaning, but it has something to do with Pesach.

Though it’s possible I’m misunderstanding something here.

Of course, despite what the rabbis say about what we have to do, for shalom bayis reasons, many of us would like to clean our entire homes, because if you don’t clean it now, when will you clean it? Right after Pesach? You just cleaned it! Before Rosh Hashanah? How is fighting with your family in Elul any better? After Sukkot? Then what exactly is the difference between going by the rabbi’s suggestion of cleaning your entire home, say, after Sukkot, different than cleaning your entire home for Pesach, for which you have to begin right after Sukkot?

So clearly, the answer here is just to start early, but to do it in a way that you won’t come to yell at people for messing it up.

For example, some people just have a year-round rule: You can only eat in certain rooms of the house. But no one wants to live their entire lives in anticipation of Pesach. We’re already living our entire lives in anticipation of Yom Kippur. The stress would kill us. Also, there’s nothing better than eating in bed. There’s a reason that on Pesach, when we’re supposed to be kings, we get to bring pillows to the table.

The other way is to clean with a strategy. For example, most people clean by room. They start in a room that no one will ever bring chametz into anyway, such as the basement storage room that the kids are afraid to go into, or the attic with the pull-down stairs, so they can feel good that they at least got one room done, and then they move on, choosing rooms strategically around the house, putting up signs that say, “No chametz beyond this point” that they forget to take down after Pesach, and then they spend the rest of the time until Pesach yelling, “I just cleaned in there!” because pretty soon after they start, they run out of rooms that no one visits, because no one has a house that is that much bigger than they need. We’re not actually kings.

But where does it say that you have to go by room? Why not go by the parts in each room that are less visited? For example, you can go by height—clean everything in the house that is more than six feet from the floor, then five feet, and so on until you get to the height of your kids. Then you can modify your signs to, “Everything in the house above the height of this sign has been cleaned for Pesach,” and you can keep adjusting the sign as you clean until it’s on the floor, and then, in the last week before Pesach, you can clean the floor.

“Sure,” you’re saying, “but there are some rooms that I have to clean last. Such as the kitchen.”

Well, I have news for you: You don’t have to clean the kitchen last. You need time to cook in the kitchen, and you don’t want everyone in your way, so why not give them other rooms to clean that week? Like maybe the rooms you don’t care about them doing a good job on. Like the ones you were going to do first.

Actually, I would say you should clean your cars last. There’s no reason your car has to be perfectly clean in order for you to clean your kitchen. You don’t keep your car in the kitchen.

Hear me out: Every year, you clean your car, and then you spend two weeks reminding your kids and their carpool friends not to eat back there, because you can’t hang a sign on your car that will not keep blowing off, and then you cook and eat in an awkward room of your house. But why not do the car last? You can have a “No chametz in the house at all” sign hanging on the front door, confusing the UPS guy, and then eat in the car. People eat in cars all the time. There are enough seats for everyone, and you know for a fact that none of the garbage from the car ever makes it back into the house. And it’s not like your car can get any dirtier than it is. Though to be fair, you don’t usually eat mushroom-barley soup in the car.

You don’t even have to sit in the driveway and eat. You can sit basically anywhere—in front of a hydrant, in a parking lot while someone is waiting for your space, on one of those boats that ship cars, in traffic, in a car wash, at the bank … And the next time you get in, your car will smell amazing. Unless you ate fish.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published seven books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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