How Do You Make Pesach If You’re A Procrastinator?
Dear Rebbetzin Chaya-
I’m avoiding thinking about Pesach, but it’s coming soon regardless. How do I best make Pesach if I’m a procrastinator?
I have often heard rabbis say that they are giving advice to themselves first and foremost, and allowing other people to listen in, rather than speaking from a position of having achieved perfection. In this particular situation, this is quite literal, because I am definitely procrastinating thinking about Peach by writing this very column! In fact, my Pesach to-do list is open in another tab and I am ignoring it right now.
While it’s true what they say: “dirt isn’t chometz and our children aren’t the Korban Pesach,” making Pesach IS a monumental task. It is fair and normal to be intimidated and even a little panicked about it. Even without looking for stringencies and getting caught up in spring cleaning, there is a lot to do. I find it singularly unhelpful when people talk about how it should be easy, and we shouldn’t be stressed out about it. I AM stressed out, and I am sure lots of us are, so let’s deal with that reality. Just because I find elements of getting ready for Pesach hard, that doesn’t mean I’m doing it wrong. It also doesn’t mean I can’t simultaneously love Pesach. We are complicated people, who can be intimidated by making Pesach, and also love making Pesach. We can feel the stress, and get through it.
By the way, “Procrastinator” is not a DSM diagnosis or a useful label, no matter what years of teachers and report cards told me. A timely article published in the NY Times as I wrote this column agrees with me. What might be helpful is to think about the root of procrastination. Is it fear? Is it not knowing where to start? Is it distraction? Is it having too much on your plate already, and no room left for another monumental task? Is it just plain boredom? Each of those things, and I am sure many more, cause us to procrastinate. Trying to figure out what is underlying procrastination can sometimes be a helpful avenue to getting around it. Boredom? Try podcasts, or a cleaning buddy you take turns with. Not knowing where to start? Start with one small task.
As for practical tips and tricks, much ink has been spilled and pixels used on articles, books and other resources to guide us through making Pesach. Anybody who has made Pesach before has their own personal method that they are always more than happy to share. Be judicious about where you look for tips and tricks. Any advice that is stressing you out is probably not the right fit for you! There is more than one right way to do things. And the “Pesach Olympics,”-that beloved pastime of comparing who has come how far in their cleaning\shopping\cooking, can sometimes be a healthy outlet, but can definitely also increase your stress. Be aware of which one it is doing for you.
What sometimes works for me:
- A written to-do list. What feels infinite and never-ending is actually a finite set of tasks (a long one, yes, but finite.) Also, sometimes when looking at it in writing I can figure out what can be cut from the list or outsourced. We will get to outsourcing later.
- Organizing the list in chronological order. For me, cleaning has to happen before kashering which is before cooking. Shopping can be a little more flexible. Don’t forget to leave time for shlepping and setting up the Pesach stuff in the kitchen (this one took me years to remember–in my house, this task takes a day or two in and of itself, depending on what else is going on in the house) Your order might be different–you might have a Pesach kitchen, or prefer to get the kashering done before you bother cleaning the rest of the house–whatever order works for you!
- Creating deadlines with a cushion. For example, if I know I want to start cooking on x day, I plan on being turned over a day or even two earlier as I schedule things. This way if I have a day that I am not super productive, the kids get sick ( I have seen the pediatric E.R. more on erev yom tov…), the oven or sink or whatever breaks, or things take longer than I estimated, I am not panicking.
- Outsourcing–to whatever extent financially feasible, I look for ways to get some amount of cleaning help, and use it strategically. I schedule the help and the specific tasks they will be doing based on the to-do list schedule. This also has the beautiful result of an EXTERNAL deadline. So if I have cleaning help scheduled to scrub the cabinets on x day, I have an external deadline to get the cabinet empty.
Be kind to yourself! We are not perfect. My fantasy may be a Cinderella like song and dance (complete with my children as the cheerful and helpful singing forest creatures) that leaves me with a spotless, sparkling house and of course a freezer full of perfectly labeled 9×13 pans, with time for a fun, educational activity Erev Yom Tov before my children bathe, nap and don their perfectly matching clothing. The reality…is much more complicated. There will be (and has been) some stress, some crying, some grumpiness, some apologizing, some laughing, and some hugging. We don’t have to get stuck on the fact that we aren’t living out some fantasy, but find the joy in the messy reality of our lives. Pesach is coming, and we’ve got this.
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