It’s holiday time and it’s our last break before the deep winter approaches, with Chanukah an unimaginable six weeks away. There will be long afternoons where kids surround you, because, surprise, there don’t have school again, while you have lots of guests, and plenty of shopping, cooking, and meals to keep you busy. This means all sorts of things are spilling, flour is spreading everywhere, and the garbage bag is constantly stuffed to the gills. What’s a mom to do?
Invest in some good cleaning habits, of course, along with a good solid dose of planning and prevention.
All children are expected to do age-appropriate chores to help make Yom Tov. A great way to avoid constant battles of “I wanted to do that job!” is by creating a spinning chart, using an old game set, with different triangles listing different jobs, such as laundry, dishes, sweep floor, and set the table.
This time of the year, the garbage bag never seems to be empty. Make changing the bag a snap by keeping a roll of bags underneath or near the garbage pail for easy replacing. Make sure that anyone who takes out the garbage bag replaces it with a new one. With extra garbage bags right there, there are no excuses.
Nothing says lazy housekeeper like tarnished silver. However, with the rapid roll call of Shabbos, Yom Tov, Shabbos, your silver candlesticks, kiddush cup, challah knife and favorite platters are in constant use, quickly becoming as tarnished as the day before you last cleaned them. I just discovered this life hack in cleaning silver, and it is already become my all-time favorite. Simply fill a basin or pot with boiling hot water, shred pieces of tin foil into the basin, add baking soda, and once the chemical reaction occurs, dip your silver inside and, voila, watch the tarnish simply disappear. Call it an experiment and hand this job over to your child, who will be fascinated by the chemical process.
Baking soda has many wonderful cleaning properties and I love seeing how far that $1.19 box can go. One of my favorite uses is mixing baking soda with vinegar and letting it sit in the bathtub for a few minutes, then scrubbing away the grime and water residuals. For hard-to-clean mold, wipe the walls of the shower or bathtub with a wet rag and a nice amount of Clorox. Let it sit on the walls for a few minutes and wipe the mold easily away.
With all the extra use, your stovetop will quickly resemble a commercial grill, covered in grease and grime. Spray or wipe the stove top with water and spread baking soda all over the top, being careful to stay away from the burners. Scrub the baking soda away with a scrubber and reveal a stovetop that looks as good as new.
The dishes in the sink will quickly pile up. Take a minute to place the larger dishes on the bottom and the smaller dishes on top. No matter how tired you are, soak the dishes with hot, soapy water. Then, while you take a break, or even overnight, all the dishes will be having a good soak, enabling you to quickly rinse them off in much less time.
More guests means more linen to wash and fold, and few things are as frustrating as trying to fold bed sheets. A great hack: Fold a set of linen as best as possible and slide the pile into a pillowcase. Then, stack the filled pillowcases in the closet, within easy reach the next time you need them.
If you have one of those classic challah trays, you know, the ones that come with a glass cover to protect the silver decoration, you are well aware of the annoying crumbs that need to be wiped away on a regular basis. One hint: keep one screw on as you unscrew the other three bolts. Slide the glass cover off and wipe both sides, and then slide back the cover, easily screwing the bolts back on as the remaining bolt is keeping the cover into place.
Lots of Yom Tov meals mean lots of salads and dips, and although we would all love to buy only organic (right?), with all the other expenses, it’s hard to rationalize. As a second-best option, you can buy produce wash that will lessen the amount of pesticides on your typical vegetables. The solution isn’t cheap either, so to make it stretch, fill up your sink with the vegetables for that day’s meals, and let all the vegetables soak together. You can also dilute sea salt (1 tsp per cup of water) or vinegar and soak the vegetables in the mixture. Rinse off and you will have superior vegetables to serve to your family.
Don’t forget while you’re cooking and cleaning and cleaning and cooking: We are busy for a good reason, and that’s a good thing. Chag Sameach!