Q: I generally work myself into a tizzy and panic about turning my kitchen over for Pesach. Is there anything I can do to take things more in stride this year?
A: Yes, there is. I have some fresh ideas to make this year’s preparations more organized and less stressful.
I have been pondering phrases with the words ‘turning over’ in them, and positive ones keep coming to mind, such as “turning over a new leaf” or “the baby turned over”. Add the words “kitchen” and “Pesach” to create the phrase “turning over the kitchen for Pesach”, and suddenly, you strike fear in even the most capable of balabustas.
I think many homemakers go beyond the letter of the law and take things to the extreme when it comes to Pesach prep.
But have no fear; here are some tips to assist you with this daunting task. I use all of them and have found them extremely helpful. Do I still stress over turning over my kitchen? Well, somewhat, but the stress is greatly reduced when I do the following 7 things. Also, the earlier you begin the organizational preparations, the better. I recommend scheduling these things on your personal calendar to make them more concrete and increase your accountability in doing them:
Inventory: Take stock of your pantry, fridge, and freezer. The goal is to begin to whittle down your stash. Have a good look of what non-perishable items are in the pantry. If you find items that you bought, but you know your family isn’t going to eat, then now is a great time to donate them to a food pantry. Plan meals using what you already have on hand. This will save you money by making you “shop” in your own kitchen—and who doesn’t want to save some cash at this already expensive time of year?
Access: Do you have too many bottles, mugs, frying pans, etc.? Are storage containers taking over your cabinets? Think about how many you really need and donate the rest. The less excess you have to deal with before Pesach, the easier it will be after Pesach and year-round. Luach.com was a great resource to post giveaways when I lived in Baltimore, and local thrift shops that serviced the greater community were happy to accept kitchenware, and even offered pickup services. Just remember to have them put you on the pickup schedule, and aim to be finished by that date.
Decide: Which cabinets will be kosher for Pesach and which will only be for chometz? As you start purchasing items, unless you already have an empty kitchen cabinet, I suggest storing your KLP items in a location other than the kitchen. I have found it is easier when there is no mixing between non-KLP and KLP items in the same room.
Ban: Say goodbye to Cheerios until Pesach is over. Eat up what you’ve got and avoid purchasing new chometz cereals and snacks.
Containerize: Once you are ready to start the turning over process, have laundry baskets, large boxes, or large storage bins available. There will be lots of shifting going on, and you may have to move the contents around until the task is complete. The goal is to keep things off the floor and counters. I like to call this “organized chaos”, as everything is in flux during this stage, and there is less overwhelm when things aren’t taking over all flat surfaces in your home.
Photograph: Prior to the turn-over stage, take photos of the BEFORE kitchen so you remember how things were arranged. This involves taking pictures of every cabinet, shelf, etc.
List: Continue to take photographs, but also make a list of where things are located. In the past, I’ve stashed things in ‘logical’ places, which would then become “out of sight, out of mind”, and after the holiday, I couldn’t for the life of me recall where the items were. Keep your notes in either a folder titled “Pesach” or on your electronic device. This should avoid the “where the heck is that ___?” scenario.
Once you’ve inventoried, accessed, banned, decided, containerized, photographed, and listed, you’re ready to clean, spritz, cover, set up, and cook.
While this article isn’t about cleaning or cooking, I have found that having the right tools on hand makes a world of difference. There is something to be said about using colorful cleaning rags and cleaning tools. But practically, having an old toothbrush, q-tips, and toothpicks are good for detailed cleaning. And no matter what, after you spritz your cleaner, let it sit so the ingredients can do their job. Think along the lines of soaking dishes: if you soak your dishes, they come clean with little scrubbing. The same applies to surface cleaning. Spritz, let sit, and wipe.
Covering counters and taping cabinets is time consuming, but hopefully not difficult. Just have tape that actually sticks to what you want it to stick to.
The time of limbo between being having a non-KLP kitchen and a KLP kitchen is the part of the preparatory process that I personally find the most challenging. It is helpful to plan on going out to eat as much you can afford to, and to use disposables as much as possible. Once you’ve cleaned, spritzed, and covered, the kitchen is finished, and the cooking phase of the preparations can begin.
The best offense for the holiday is to plan it out as early as possible. Remember to eat, drink, and sleep. Smile once in a while, and breathe. Wishing everyone a meaningful Pesach!