Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Painlessly Preparing a Panic Free Pesach

            Just about a week after Purim each Traditional Jewish homemaker thinks about the Passover preparations.  After quickly putting away the Purim costumes, finishing the last of the delicious hamamustans cookies and hiding all the candy, the panic begins.
            What usually happens to most women is that the panic of making Pesach overpowers them and disables their cognitive thoughts. They become overwhelmed, anxious and question their abilities to be able to do it again. It doesn’t matter that they know full well that it will and can be done- it is still a daunting task for anyone.  As a professional organizer and mother of seven, I have a few suggestions and approaches for this holiday of freedom and appreciation.
            First and foremost, you must address the issue of your stress and feelings of anxiousness.  Cleaning for Pesach and preparing your home does not have to be a stressful event if you plan and delegate.  Start reducing the stress by being prepared.  Make a list of things that need to be done.  Cleaning and shopping should be on the top of the list.  Put the lists in a notebook or binder that has sections for cleaning, shopping and meal preparation/menus.  By keeping it in a designated spot, you can avoid the usual inevitability of yellow sticky notes all over your house and having to make list after list of the same items. In addition, this notebook can be saved from year to year as a baseline and guidebook. Time will be saved each year and you will quickly be reminded how you did it last year. Not only will this tactic calm your nerves as you realize that this task is indeed do-able, but it will save you time and energy.
Second, analyze your feelings about cleaning and reduce the stress by breaking down the chores into bit size pieces and by scheduling the cleaning.  For example, take a calendar and divide up the tasks and assign a time and day for each chore and activity (shopping) to take place.  My favorite time management author is Stephen Convey.  I personally follow his 7 habits of highly effective people.  Habit number three “Begin with the End in mind” helps me with my time line of events.  I take out my calendar and make an X on April 18th, First sedar night.  I ask myself what I want to be doing on that morning.  When I remember that that is the day I want to set the table, buy flowers and get my nails manicured, I realize everything else has to be done on an earlier day. Thus, I then turn to the day before, April 17th .   I schedule for that day- making the sedar plate, dessert, and the fresh food entrees.  That put me back to April 16 th.  What should I do on that day…? I always give myself 2 days to do each task in case of emergency or if you don’t have time to complete the job. It is important to assign tasks in bite size pieces so that everything is do-able. As you can see I work with keeping the end in mind, working backwards until I get to the current day.
There is always so much to be done- cleaning out the toy closet, clothes closet and planning the menu, inviting the guest, and much more.  Depending on your strengths and weaknesses, household help, size of your family, or disabilities, you can begin to de-clutter, clean, organizer and enjoy the process by being prepared.  The general idea on organizing a panic free Pesach is all in the planning.  Many of the beginners must first understand the difference between cleaning for Pesach verses spring cleaning.  This may or may not be the best time or season to clean your drapes. Set your goals and be realistic.  Evaluate how much time you really have to devote to getting ready for Pesach.  Young mothers of toddlers or a full time CEO will have a different schedule than a mother with teenager daughters and full time cleaning help.  My strongest suggestion is setting up a schedule and time table using this year’s calendar.  You must set realistic goals and needs, and evaluate your personal home situation.  List your chores by room and decide to what extent your will go crazy cleaning it.
            Prepare your menus and meal planning, as well as your shopping by making a list.  Try to make your meals this year be nutritious and simple.  Leave the complicated dishes for shorter holidays like Shavuot.  My best cooking tips are preparing dishes with no more then three ingredients, making plenty of the most popular dishes, using food storage bags to freeze and make some of the food in advance. 
Don’t forget to involve your family in all acts of preparation.  The young children can clean their own toys, bookshelves and games.  I hide money or Pesach candy in between the book pages or under the sofa as a reward for cleaning so well.  Divide up each chore, delegate each to a family member or hire more help.
            There is no question that preparing for Pesach is a daunting task. However, it can be doable and fun. The more you plan the less stress you will feel. Just make sure that after the cleaning is done, you have time for yourself- to shower, prepare and do something to make yourself feel or look especially good. This year you can be a Queen at your own sedar!