Tuesday, May 01, 2012

On going shoeless

This past year I've probably been to more open houses than there are houses in certain cities. Though most of them now blur together in my mind's eye, there's one I've never forgotten. The one with a lovely oak front porch, large bay windows, and a pile of shoes at the front door which soon made sense as I read the sign on the front door printed in black and white lettering informing all visitors to please remove shoes before entering. Well then. It was most certainly strange to walk through a stranger's home without shoes [reminding me of the burglars of Home Alone and all the um, foot related challenges they faced] but the act of walking barefoot on smooth hardwood floors was not an entirely unpleasant sensation. Their daughter has severe allergies, the agent apologized also, the owners noticed it keeps the place cleaner. Now that we've bought a home, it got me thinking:
  1. I've never had allergies. Until this year. This year I'm a coughing, sneezing, watery eyed mess and the EPA found that shoeless homes reduce lead-based toxins in their homes by 60% not to mention all the other pesticides, chemicals, and soot we drag in from all the places we walk.
  2. The previous owners of our house kept the place immaculate and many bloggers I read wrote about how much easier it was to keep the home clean when they left their outdoor shoes outside and as someone engaged in a perpetual David versus Goliath battle with the state of order in my home, the thought of one step to make things simpler is soothing.
  3. High heels pockmark hardwoods.
  4. And 34 other reasons I found on a blog devoted entirely to the matter of going shoeless.
So we're thinking, in addition to making [and following through with] a cleaning schedule that will [hopefully] keep the home in manageable shape, we're going shoeless. I thought K would stare at me like I had sprouted antennas on my head when I brought this up but instead, he nodded as we approached the house the next day and promptly removed his shoes before stepping inside. And my kiddo? He's always looking to ditch the shoes, so as a threesome we're squared away.

As for visitors, the plan right now is to put up a polite note near the front door with a shoe rack. We'll buy some slippers people could slip on if they want their feet covered but I do wonder how people will respond to this. As a desi, its not uncommon for guests to take off their shoes, but not everyone does this as a general rule. And many find shoeless requests rude as people coming over may not be prepared and might be sporting mismatched socks or craggy toenails. And how far does one go? Does the plumber remove his shoes as well? The movers? Or are there social exceptions for service folk? What about if you want to step outside to your deck or check in on your [aspirational] vegetable garden? Mats by the outdoor entrances with back yard shoes? Backyard shoes!? Outdoor shoes! Indoor shoes! Shoes for guests! Oh my! Going shoeless could be hefty on the budget!

Have a shoeless home yourself? Ever gone shoeless in the home of another? What are your thoughts on the topic? Any advice or perspective most appreciated!

35 comments:

'Murgdan' said...

We are shoeless. Somehow things still get dirty. And, yes, it can be awkward asking people to take their shoes off....but even more awkward when they walk all over your virgin floors with their shoes and THEN discover you have a shoeless house. So I've found most people respond well enough to the frank request to remove them :). Plus I always blame my husband, because clearly its a cultural thing. You know everyone does it in Italy ;). (or not).

'Murgdan' said...

Oh, and we just leave service people alone.....and the occasional grandmother who has difficulty bending to remove them. Tried the slipper thing....now I just offer socks.

Mina said...

In Germany it IS a cultural thing. Unless the host specifically tells you to keep them on, it is implied that the shoes come off when you enter one's home. It's mostly a matter of cleanliness. Women here value their time and mopping floors after guests is not appreciated, especially since it rains here more than in England. I found it strange in the beginning, but now, with a toddler who literally eats off the floor, I too ask people to take the shoes off. You go into a block of flats and see at least one pair of shoes at every door. You certainly know when they are having guests. :-))
After all , when you get used to it, it is no longer curious.

sprogblogger said...

We're shoeless inside, too, but we don't impose that on other people--lots of folks figure it out on their own, though, by the pile o' shoes & shoe-removing-bench tactfully situated RIGHT by the front door!

We let service people alone, though some of them figure it out and take the shoes off without us saying anything. And while if friends ask if they should take their shoes off, we'll say, "Sure!", we'd never dream asking--the idea of making someone feel uncomfortable when I'm hosting them just makes me shudder! (Of course this really only works because we rarely have new people over!)

My husband wears inside shoes because he has bad ankles & wears orthotics, and when his 'outdoor' shoes get too tattered-looking for public viewing, they become 'inside' shoes and the old insides get thrown out! But I wear comfy slippers, socks, or bare feet. Henry wears slippers or goes barefoot (he tends to fall on the hardwood floors if I let him run around in socks). It's not any more expensive, really, and it DOES keep the house cleaner (especially when we lived in the city--blech!) but even here, the mud stays contained in the mudroom/main entrance, which is nice!

Aisha said...

Murgdan, Mina, Susan, wow this has been a real eye opener as I previously only thought that shoeless cultures were limited to the Asian realm so thank you so much for enlightening.

Murgdan ah shift the blame for shoelessness! Love it! :) Thanks! And your'e right I can imagine ppl would be mortified if they knew they didn't take off shoes and were supposed to. No sign on the door then?

Mina, that's so charming that the shoes are left outdoors so you get a glimpse of each households inner world lol! I think I get the heeby jeebies more with kids because W is constantly STILL plucking things off the floor to bite.

Susan, thanks for the advice, I would feel weird asking service people to remove shoes too. . . I will have to invest in a few more pair of shoes but it sounds like an investent worth making!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a shoeless house. My grandma was a clean freak and it just was habit. Especially during the winter!!!! Lots of west indians are shoeless too. So lucky for me I never have to tell anyone from my husbands's family:) I have a pair of slippers that I wear inside and then I have a pair of flip flops by the patio when I go outside. pixie

hausmilleradventure said...

I guess I grew up in a shoeless house. My mom put a shoe rack (or a big cardboard box) by the front door and as soon as we came in the shoes came off. In AZ, most of the year we were barefoot. My mom didn't want her light colored carpets stained by the feet of 5 children. When the carpets were brand new we requested guests remove shoes, but it wasn't mandatory for guests.

Now that I'm grown, we're mostly shoeless, but it's not a strict thing. The shoes get taken off by the door to the living area. I need a better shoe storage solution if we would be strict about it.

Anonymous said...

We live in a shoeless house, too. With the snowy winters here, no one would think of keeping their shoes on inside, so I guess guest are just used to it. I do find it helps with cleanliness.
As for the patio, we do the same as pixie and keep flip flops around.
For now I would think that you can use your son as an "excuse" to ask ppl to take off their shoes. And by the time he is out of the playing-on-the-floor age, everyone will be used to taking their shoes off at your house ;-D
Natalie

katie said...

We are shoeless, even since i started working internationally 15 years ago i realized that the rest of the world tends to think wearing shoes in the house is pretty gross, or even completely disrespectful. I think it makes a big difference and can help prevent scratching floors etc..... I always take my shoes off in others poeples houses and i ask people do the same in ours. If they have to wear something we have a bunch of "indoor" flip flops or slippers.

Kamille Elahi said...

I read somewhere that wearing shoes inside is an American thing. Here (UK) it's not very common unless you live in one of the more modern style houses wthout a carpet.

Cat said...

Wow. I didn't realize it was so common, either. We are shoeless at home because we got used to living that way when we lived in Korea. But, we don't ask guests to remove their shoes, although they are welcome to do so. Because it's not a common cultural thing for most people raised in the US, we didn't want to make people who are unused to the practice uncomfortable. Glad to know that more people do this. I hope it catches on!

Aisha said...

Thanks for sharing Pixie! How you do you handle people who come in with their shoes on? Do you ask them to remove?

Hausermiller thanks for sharing your own experiences, I think I will likely be the same way, I will put up a note, a shoerack and shoe-removal-bench but if people simply won't remove them I'm going to let it go because its not worth maing a guest uncomfortable.

Aisha said...

Natalie, thanks for the advice! Yes, my son is a great reason as he truly is one of the reasons I want to do this-- he eats off the floor to this day, apparently a fallen cheerio tastes better than the one that was on his highchair! :)

Katie, thanks for sharing, have you ever had any negative experiences when asking people to remove shoes?

Kamille, UK also remove shoes? I didn't know that. We don't have carpets but hardwoods can be tough to clean too so the less work the better I figure, but for carpets removing shoes is certainly a must!

Cat, right? I had no idea that it was a common occurance in the US as well. It makes me feel better about having guests go shoeless if its not a rare thing. Glad I wasn't the only one :)

Anonymous said...

I just polietly tell people that we don't wear shoes in the house. No one has given me any problems to my face, lol:) Pixie

Aisha said...

"No one has given me any problems to my face." <-- ROFL ahhh love it!

Bongo said...

Yes shoeless house!!!! Cultural thing also in England floors are mainly carpeted and I frankly think its gross to wear
Your outdoor shoes on carpet. Only one of my friends
Finds this totally bizarre. I say you walk outdoors through dog poop and pee and goodness knows remnants of what else and then want to wear shoes on carpet that you sit, lie, let toddler crawl, pray on... Thats just really too gross! Rule would be same for hardwood floor and i couldn't bear to clean that up all the time. Omg
Makes me shudder talking about shoes on carpet! I always took
Shoes off when in other peoples homes when house hunting even if they didn't mind. I figure you wouldn't put your shoes on your bed would you? Or a hospital bed? So why on a carpet.. That you also sit/lie on? Ugh!

Aisha said...

Bongo very good point! The service guy came today and didn't take his shoes off even though he had walked through our gravel and dirt backyard. . . but I just reminded myself to vacuum and clean up since I didn't know how to tell him to remove. Seems so far everyone is overwhelmingly shoeless, good to know! :)

Bongi said...

I know what you mean it drives me crazy when people come in like to deliver things and trawl muddy shoes and sometimes you just can't tell them not to! But once I change the carpet in the house (we still have the gross carpet the last people left and coming up to a year on) I think I'll be pretty ruthless in my no shoe rule!!!

Oh and that was me bongi

Bongi said...

On a totally opposite point, I just started my daughter at nursery where she is in the carpeted or at least rug-ed baby section, and they don't take the shoes off the kids all day. Some babies are in from 8 till 6 and have to be in their shoes all the time. I've always been so anti shoes with my daughter, I didn't get her first pair till 12 months, I never got the pram shoes or whatever shoes that just look pretty, and now she has to wear them all day long n it's horrid!!!

Aisha said...

Bongi [and yes after hit enter I realized it was you, lol!] That is SO terrible about keeping them in shoes?! Can you ask them to let her at least walk about in socks?!

md said...

in india and hong kong, homes are largely shoeless. my home in hk was fully carpeted, and the thought of anyone wearing shoes on it was shuddering. service people there are used to this, and either happily remove their shoes or bring along these large cloth bag things that they wear over their shoes before stepping in! even at work, many ppl remove their shoes and wear flip flops..

here in india, it's a bit weirder. people remove their shoes (most of the time it's slippers/sandals really) without being told, but unfortunately their feet are not always clean (considering the pollution and dirt on the streets, and the heat that requires you to wear sandals..) which i find really gross. sigh. for the first time in my life, i've had to clean up after plumbers who left disgusting footprints everywhere.

i was interested by the comments noting that going shoeless is so international, but this practice doesn't occur in the US..

Aisha said...

Md, I didn't even consider that barefoot does not always mean cleanfoot. I too am amazed at reading the coments because I always thought that shoeless cultures were restricted to Asian culture, but it makes sense to go shoeless everywhere, I just wondoer why in the US its such a foreign concept [for most]

Matthew Celestis said...

Thanks for the link to my blog.

Keeping a shoeless home makes so much sense.

awomanmyage said...

I am of West Indian heritage and so we never wore our shoes inside and expected guests to do the same. When I got older, I realized that not everyone did this but to this day, I rarely keep my shoes on in someone else's house unless they request it (or their floors are filthy or cold.) I once had a friend object (though not to me) about removing her shoes. (Our old apartment was huge and was mostly hardwood floors. It actually hurt my feet to walk around at first.) I offered her slippers as I do to all my guests especially if they are in bare feet or pantyhose. But we do have a lot of cold, wet weather here and I'd rather not have to mop up after people. I already have a dog and a messy kid. Sometimes I let people keep their shoes on if they don't plan on staying long and it's apparent it took them a lot of work to tie up their sandals or boots. You can also buy paper booties for workmen or delivery people. As a nmatter of fact, when our bed was delivered they already had paper booties on.

HapaMama said...

Shoes off, of course! Being Taiwanese American our family always took off shoes at the door. If it bothers people to be barefoot, you can always keep some slippers handy. The thought of all the dirt and germs from the street coming into the house... *shudder*. I also blogged about it here: http://hapamama.com/2012/02/please-leave-your-shoes-at-the-door/

Lollipop Goldstein said...

We're a shoeless home -- we've always done it. The only time we make an exception is for someone elderly (great-grandma has a difficult time walking without shoes) as well as repair people. Everyone else kicks off their shoes at the door. I'm sure there have been some people who have been put off by this, but none who have told me so.

Shawna said...

I didn't realize that people ever left their shoes on. I'm from Ottawa, Canada and everyone takes their shoes off automatically when entering a home - it would be rude not to do so!

MandyE (Twin Trials and Triumphs) said...

We have not worn shoes in our house in 10 years. We even ask service people to take their shoes off (which is sometimes a little scary...wondering how muddy their socks might be!). And we found a plumber that puts on these little paper booties over his shoes upon entering a home...love him! ;)

Occasionally someone will offer a tentative "Um, oh, OK," but I rationalize it's my home...this is the way we do things.

I will say that it's been a bit challenging since having children, though. We have three-year old twins, and it's an acrobatic feat to get everyone's shoes on, balancing in our tiny mud room.

We all have "outdoor shoes", by the way...flip flops (or something similar) that can be slipped on to run to the mailbox. That makes a quick stroll to the vegetable patch a little easier. :)

Life as I know it said...

Shoeless! I can't get them off fast enough in my own home and homes I visit. Hosts will hurriedly assure me I can leave them on, but it's my own preference. If I have to run out to the garden, I'll go out barefoot. Come to think of it, I do a lot of things shoeless, lol.

Renee @MommysHomestead said...

For the most part we are shoeless indoors, although due to our COLD winters all footwear is kept indoors by the front door on shoe racks and we have bench there for putting on and taking off footwear. The only time we don't remove our shoes when we come in is when we have armfuls of groceries and then it's just through the mudroom and walking on 3-6' of flooring to put the groceries on the kitchen island. I have huge mats outside and inside the doors so most of the EWW gets rubbed off while we walk in.

Rachel said...

I grew up in a house where we always wore our shoes in the house, but almost all of my friends grew up in shoeless houses, so I became accustomed to it rather quickly. Now that I'm on my own, I require that everyone remove their shoes, unless they are stopping by for a brief visit or are a repairman. I've found I like being able to walk around barefoot in my apartment without having to worry about dirt and gross stuff on my floors. And plus, my socks stay whiter!

Thanks for the great read!

Mandyland said...

We're shoeless in our house. While we don't take them off outside, we do have a large basket by the front door and and oft-washed little rug upon which to stand.

For us, it started as a way to keep the WHITE (???) carpet of our rental clean. Now, I just love the fact that I don't have to vacuume nearly as often.

And yes, we have flip flops by the back door for quick trips to collect eggs or veggies out of the garden. We slide into them when we walk out back and flip them off before we come inside.

Alison Solove @Experimental Wifery said...

My husband and I decided to have a shoe-free sleeping area. We let family and guests wear shoes downstairs on the wood floor--which feels a lot more hospitable.

While we'd love to have a shoe-free home, we use three different entrances and there isn't really a practical place to store shoes. We leave a rack near the stairs and ask everyone who goes upstairs to remove their shoes first.

lianne said...

We are in the Uk and yes i agree that most people here dont wear shoes in the house. We take off our shoes in the entrance hall and change into slippers. Once again,this seems to be that most people here have their slippers by the door to put on straight away.I would never walk into someones house in my shoes.

Becca@Removalists Melbourne said...

Going shoeless does more than keep your house clean. The rubber on the soles of your shoes picks up chemicals and toxins from the pavement, You don’t want to bring those things into your bedroom.

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