In Israel, the Passover festival marks the beginning of spring. The days become longer, the weather becomes lovelier and across the country people are going crazy cleaning their homes.
Not only do they do a spring clean, but many also adhere to the commandment of ridding their house of chametz, or any leavened foods, ahead of the holiday. The result is a massive overhaul that can only be recovered from by downing the requisite four glasses of wine on Seder night.
Luckily, Israelis absolutely love to clean – which is just as well, considering we live in a dusty, partially desert land where no surface stays clean for more than a couple of hours.
To get in the holiday spirit, ISRAEL21c approached both professionals and the cleanliest lay people we know to gather their top tips for a successful and stress-free spring clean. Here’s how to go about it, Israel-style.
- Know what it is that you want to do
Despite spring cleaning often being lumped together with Passover cleaning, the two events are quite separate and don’t need to be tackled at the same time.
“I think that a lot of people mistake Passover cleaning for spring cleaning,” says personal organizer Rebekah Saltzman from Balagan Be Gone.
“A lot of people get stressed out about the house getting all nice and sparkly. People think like, ‘Oh, I have to get my chandeliers cleaned and my windows cleaned and clear out every closet in my home.’ It’s just not what you have to do.”
- Don’t even think of keeping things you might only use one day
Making space for Passover equipment is a good chance to evaluate what you want to keep in your home, explains Karen Furman, professionally known as the Klutter Koach.
“It’s about taking a good hard look, especially with living at home in a global pandemic for over a year. People say they’ll keep it and use it one day. If you haven’t used it this year, you probably won’t use it,” she says.
“Make a mental inventory and be honest with yourself. What do you use every day?” she adds. “Passover is a good time to think that someday isn’t going to happen and to pass it on to someone else.”
- Don’t procrastinate
You know those household chores that you really can’t stand? Like cleaning the blinds, scrubbing the fridge and degreasing the oven? Well, you can’t, and really shouldn’t, avoid them forever.
“The things you really hate doing, do it sooner rather than at the end,” Furman advises. “Put it on your list immediately.”
- Don’t let your kids off the hook
This piece of advice comes from none other than celebrity Bar Refaeli, who recently took to Instagram to share her top household tips. Apparently, in Israel even supermodels are afflicted by the cleaning bug. Asked how she prevents her three kids from littering the living room with their toys, she answered that she tells them that whatever isn’t returned to its place goes in the trash. Genius.
- Make your machines work for you
“Find ways to make the machines that you have work a little harder for you so you don’t have to work so hard. It comes down to managing your time better,” Saltzman says.
“I have an iRobot and it runs every night when we’re sleeping. It’s huge. It takes a lot of daily cleaning off my plate,” she says.
- Be mindful of harmful detergents
Yours truly’s youngest brother and the most eco-friendly person she knows, Assaf Barak, reminds us that many cleaning products are harmful to the environment and can easily be swapped out for greener soaps and detergents, whether store-bought or DIY. That way you’ll be keeping both your home and the planet clean. Plain clear vinegar can accomplish lots of cleaning tasks.
- Magic Eraser really is magic
“Magic Eraser is the best cleaning thing ever. Everyone should have those,” Furman says. And yours truly concurs. Speaking from personal experience, the little sponge can clean toddler’s drawings and cat vomit from the walls, scuffs from cabinets, unsightly marks from tabletops and everything in between. It really is perfect.
- Make a list, but feel free to ditch it
Phyllis Reich is a new immigrant who moved here in the middle of a global pandemic. Among the stuff she brought over with her to Israel is the Excel spreadsheet she uses to plan her Passover cleaning.
“I make a Passover list to help me so that Passover doesn’t overwhelm me,” says. “I have a plan so that I can abandon it if I want it. It’s there so I can have the information.”
- Adapt to new circumstances
Enduring the coronavirus crisis, moving to a new country or even just celebrating Passover in new settings all should lead to rethinking how you’ve always done things.
“We just moved into our apartment. It’s sparkling clean and brand new. I keep telling myself that I don’t need to clean the windows,” Reich admits.
- Unfortunately, you do have to do a little every day
In order for your spring clean not to be an absolute nightmare, you have to clean consistently throughout the year.
“Just because you did a little yesterday doesn’t mean you can stop. It’s like doing the laundry or dishes,” Furman notes. “You have to do it every day.”
- Keep a spritzer handy for your pets
Not only is my friend Noa Swisa a remarkably neat and tidy person, but she is also the proud owner of a Labrador called Shane and Palacio the cat. Her top tip for cleaning up after her beloved pets is to keep a spritz bottle filled with a vinegar-and-water solution at hand. She uses it to effectively clean up drool, other bodily fluids and dirt without having to bring out the heavy guns every time.
- Don’t splash water everywhere
Strictly speaking, this piece of advice goes against the Israeli way of cleaning. To wash the floors, which never have wall-to-wall carpets, we usually do what’s called a sponja:weflood our house with huge amounts of water and soap and then squeegee it out to the nearest drain. But, as my brother notes, it’s hugely wasteful. Instead, he suggests mopping the floor to minimize the amount of water used to get equally clean and more resource-friendly results.
- Don’t go overboard on products
To keep a sparklingly clean house, you don’t have to have a huge array of cleaning products. Reich, for example, likes using all-purpose cleaner like Castile soap for a variety of chores and doesn’t believe in specialty cleaning products.
“I’m not sure there’s a chore I wouldn’t do. But that’s probably the distinction for me –not to have so many things to use to clean.”
- Work backward
When it comes to Passover or spring cleaning, you can find yourself with a lot on your plate. So make sure you get your priorities straight and then find a way to get them done.
“The most important thing to do is write down what your priorities are and work back from the last possible day for cleaning so you can get everything done,” Saltzman advises. “Whatever you want to do, write it down, put it in your calendar and work backward.”
- If you only have five minutes…
Fine. So this beats the point of an orderly spring clean. But sometimes you find yourself with only five minutes before guests come knocking on the front door. Our contributors’ opinions are divided over what to do in such cases, maybe because their houses are probably always clean.
Saltzman would give the bathroom a quick clean. “Having a nice bathroom is always nice if you have people coming over,” she says.
For Furman, it’s all about the living room.
“I would make my living room look presentable. I would clear all the toys and laundry off the couch and put them, for example, in my bedroom, because no one will go there. I will whisk off any dishes and wash the floor,” she says.“No one wants to walk into what looks like a disaster area.”
Reich concurs. “So I think for me the most important thing when guests come in is to not see clutter,” she says. “Nobody is going to run their fingers along the bookcase to check for dust.”