People like to say that dirt isn’t chometz, but as Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky says, if dirt isn’t chometz, how can you tell? Besides, are you really going to take apart the whole closet and then not wipe it down before you put everything back? If you’re not going to clean the mess now, when will you?
Some people have this misconception that I love cleaning and therefore relish the upcoming holiday of Pesach. They assume that because I write about organizing – it must mean I spend the whole day dusting and mopping. Sadly, that is not the case. In fact, I do not enjoy scrubbing until my skin falls off (I really should invest in gloves), or sweeping the floor for the fifth time in one day, or wiping the accumulated salt-encrusted snow from my mudroom floor. On the other hand, what I do love is relaxing with my family in a clean, airy, organized space, where I can find what I need, when I need it. When the time comes to clean, I do it by keeping my eye on the prize of a relaxing environment even as I mumble to myself over the inability of skirts to hold their shape while ironing the pleats of my daughter’s uniform skirts over and over.
So if I love the end result of an organized, clean house, I will find the easiest way to achieve that goal. Can you guess what that would be? That’s right: avoid clutter and grime in the first place. This is a method that takes practice before it comes with ease, but with Pesach a couple of months away, this is the best time to begin perfecting good habits.
I’ve spoken many times before about the ability to stay on top of household chores by developing a daily and weekly schedule which includes doing laundry, washing dishes and sweeping, setting aside a fixed time to mop and clean the silver, etc., and making sure to include all the children, thereby instilling in them not just the important midda of responsibility, but also granting them the gift of organization.
There are a few areas that can quickly become a gathering place for dust and clutter. Here are some specific ways to deal with them:
1. Junk Mail should be chucked while you are still standing at your door or, even better, write return to sender, wrong address on the envelope and put it back in the mailbox.
2. Bills can be easily disposed of by going paperless. Most, if not all, companies sending you a paper bill have an option for paperless, and allow you to sign up online for monthly reminders to view and pay your account. Some companies even offer a financial incentive for having an online account, as this saves the company a lot of money, not to mention trees. Being able to view your account online has many other benefits as well – you no longer have to go hunting for the paper bill that corresponds to that month; you can simply click on the billing cycle of that month, and voilà, the list of expenses appears.
3. For solicitations, I recommend deciding which organizations to donate to, and then calling them up and asking them to send you an e-mail request instead of a paper one. This will save them money, thereby making your donation go even further. For those organizations that you are not interested in donating to, call them and politely but firmly ask them to remove you from their list.
4. Finally, for invitations, RSVP right away and put a reminder with the address of the event in your cell phone calendar.
Groceries, overnight bags and suitcases, and clothes shopping: In short, unpack right away. I would even suggest not putting down the bags at all, as they can easily get pushed aside, causing clutter and the potential for someone to trip over them. Instead, carry the bags straight to their destinations and unpack immediately. In addition, leaving the groceries out is an invitation for little hands to get curious. A better choice is to put away your newly acquired purchases, or packed suitcase, and take a couple of minutes to organize your pantry or closet at the same time, which brings me to…
Closets and dressers: Over the years, it’s so easy to accumulate a large amount of rarely-worn clothes. When the time comes to organize and purge those items we haven’t worn in years, we feel that tinge of “perhaps I will wear it someday” and we put the item right back where it came from.
Here’s a handy tip: Hang your hangers the opposite way and turn items in your dresser inside out. After you wear an item of clothing, put it back the proper way. Next year (which will be here in an instant), see which clothes are still backwards or inside out and find them a better home promptly.
Important papers: Every home needs a file cabinet to hold important papers such as passports for every member of the family (you never know when crazy flights to Israel will come around), leases, warranties and the like. The crucial part is to not let that file cabinet overflow. Every time you add another paper to the file cabinet, take a few minutes to make sure all the other documents are still relevant. For example, there is no need to keep maintenance manuals on a vacuum cleaner that you no longer have.
Pesach cleaning: Count how many rooms you have in your house and begin cleaning that number of weeks before Pesach. Each week, tackle one room and finish all of it before beginning the next week. This year will be the ninth Pesach I will be making, and as far as I know, that is the only way to make Pesach cleaning stress-free.
As a postscript, this past weekend, I took the plunge into Pesach cleaning and tackled the kid’s room. However, before I began, I took my own advice, and after rubbing Vaseline all over my hands, put on a pair of long yellow rubber gloves. The warmth created by the cleaning helped the moisture repair my poor abused skin, and three hours later, I not only had a Pesach-cleaned bedroom, but soft hands.
Enjoy your fresh, clean, happy space!
About the Author: Pnina Baim holds a B.S. in Health and Nutrition from Brooklyn College and an MS.edu from Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Program. She works as a nutritionist, a certified lactation consultant, a home organizer, and in her free time writes as much as possible. She is the author of the Young Adult novels, Choices, A Life Worth Living (featured on Dansdeals and Jew In The City) and a how-to book for the Orthodox homemaker, Sing While You Work. The books are available at amazon.com. Pnina is available for speaking engagements and personal consulting. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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