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How to KonMari Your Pantry (and Your Life) in Time for Passover

How to KonMari Your Pantry (and Your Life) in Time for Passover

Closeup aerial view of a mans hand holding a black trash bag in a kitchen

Cleaning guru Marie Kondo and her KonMari method are all the rage, inspired by her 2014 book and new Netflix series. In both, Kondo teaches us to organize our stuff and toss what we don’t need, using a method centered around inventorying everything we own and getting rid of anything that doesn’t serve a purpose or “spark joy.”

To me, the entire process feels a bit reminiscent of cleaning for Passover.

I’m one of the many Jews who sees Passover cleaning as being both an evocative religious ritual and, simultaneously, an opportunity for some additional spring cleaning. If I’m already cleaning my cupboards for bread crumbs, I might as well vacuum the place while I’m at it! There are aspects to the KonMari method, though, that can make Passover cleaning more meaningful.

A core element of the KonMari method is to thank the items for their service before disposing of them. Maybe you used to love that piece of new technology, but it broke; maybe that sweater’s only service was to prove to you that you didn’t really like it in the first place. This practice is intended to promote mindful ownership of the items you keep.

How, then, might you KonMari your Passover pantry? What would that look like? (Though a more pressing question might be “What’s in there?” because, if you’re like me, you last looked at the contents of your pantry before last Passover!)

Admit it: Taking out everything out of your pantry, putting it on the kitchen floor, and sorting it according to whether it “sparks joy” sounds like much more fun than traditional cleaning methods. It’s also be a family-friendly way for kids to help with the process.

Take a moment to thank your chametz (leaven) for the deliciousness it brought into your life, then get rid of it. (Anything that’s sealed and unexpired can be donated so it may spark joy for someone else.)

Thank that years-old box of matzah for its service as emergency food rations, then lay it to rest in the garbage bin. Do the same with the half-opened boxes of pasta and canned foods you haven’t touched in years. (And don’t forget: Whenever possible, donate!)

When you’re done with the pantry itself, the KonMari method can also help you tap into special opportunities to reflect on all beautiful things you love about the Passover holiday, and all the memories it brings up.

Many of our personally meaningful items are sentimental because of the people we love: items that come from family members, whether recently or long ago; things our children have made for us, bringing home their creative works beaming with pride. When we hold these items, we reflect on our family members and beloved friends, and we feel their joy and love.

Maybe you find joy in your grandmother’s charoset bowl, the one that’s been present for generations of Passover sedarim.

Maybe you find joy in the Haggadah that your child colored all over, or the Passover art project they made in religious school.

Maybe you find joy in the antique Haggadah that’s been passed down throughout your family for generations, or the Kiddush cup that you received as a wedding gift, all freshly polished for the holiday.

But if you find yourself holding some of your Passover items and asking, “Does this spark joy?” and you’re not sure the answer is “yes,” just know: It’s OK to have some mixed feelings.

Maybe that beautiful seder plate also symbolizes some of the frustration of cleaning your home for the holiday. Maybe it reminds you of the emotional and physical labor of preparing a holiday meal for your large family. Maybe you look at the seder plate, in all its beauty and symbolism, and wish to love it, but just… can’t.

And that’s OK, too.

The KonMari method doesn’t demand that we throw out items we use or need, even if they don’t spark immediate and unbridled joy. The term Kondo uses for this feeling (tokimeki) can also translate to “excitement” or “palpitation” – not necessarily a joyous feeling, per se, but a real, intense, emotional connection. Indeed, so much of Passover conjures up intense feelings, not all of them joyous – so per the KonMari method, it’s OK if the feelings you have about Passover (or any aspect of life, really) are sometimes equal parts “Awesome!” and “Ack!”

Other good news: You can also use the KonMari method to thank and discard other elements of Passover that do not spark joy.

Let’s say your family begins a heated discussion during your seder. You can inform them that, due to your newfound embrace of the KonMari system, stressful discourse no longer sparks joy for you, and it should be thanked for its contribution but no longer entertained at your table.

Either your guests will get it, having also enjoyed Kondo’s charming Netflix series, or they’ll be so confused by this cryptic answer that they will drop the subject altogether as they ponder the mystery of what you’ve just said. Either way, you win.

Tired of the long Passover seder that extends far past your bedtime? Sorry, you can’t KonMari that out of your life – for better or worse, that’s a core part of the holiday.

When it comes to things we need but don’t always love, though, the KonMari method offers an opportunity to tidy ourselves up inside, as well. What’s blocking your spiritual growth? What’s holding you back? Those questions can be a little trickier to identify than “What don’t I need in my pantry this Passover?” – but taking the time to answer them will make your holiday more meaningful and your state of mind more peaceful.

Take time to thank yourself, too – even for mistakes you’ve made and bad habits you’ve picked up. Every one of those is a lesson, and every lesson helps us grow.

Even cleaning the pantry.

B. Lana Guggenheim is a former communications associate for the Union for Reform Judaism. She graduated with a BA from Hunter College and an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has worked as a journalist, editor, and analyst covering international affairs, Jewish life, and Israel affairs for Jewcy, Tablet, the Forward, South EU Summit, and more.

B. Lana Guggenheim
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