Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Household: Floors, shoes, and dirt.

I have a number of friends who have recently purchased houses, and one of them expressed that as soon as their hardwood floors were done, they were going to become "crazy shoe people" and require everyone coming in to remove their shoes.  Inwardly, I kind of groaned, because while I totally and completely understand that shoes track in all kinds of dirt, I also don't really like removing my shoes when I come into somebody's house, but it seems that you cannot answer the question, "do you mind removing your shoes?" with, "yes."  (As Carrie Bradshaw learned in that Sex and the City episode.  Which is pretty much the only one where I sympathize with her.)

Removing my shoes bothers me for a couple of reasons, all of which are pretty much exclusive to being in a house with hardwood floors.  For the past two or three months, I've had this odd pain in the ball of my foot.  It's fine as soon as I put on shoes, and I've made it through marathon training as well as a 20-mile trail race without it getting any worse or better, and it finally lightened up a bit after the marathon (hmmm), but when it flares up, it is excruciating on hardwood floors.  (I know this because my yoga studio also makes people remove their shoes, and limping from the cubbies to the mat pretty much had me in tears.)  In addition, when I had another foot injury a few years ago, my podiatrist basically told me that I was to wear sneakers at all times, at home or at work, until I had fully recovered.  So I feel like maybe this is a valid reason to leave my shoes on. 
Another issue is that my feet are always cold.  Always.  Especially at my in-laws house, where removing your shoes is expected, and their kitchen floor is some kind of tile that must be chilled with frozen water running underneath it or something.  Even with regular socks on, I spend any time in the kitchen shivering.  My in-laws all wear slippers, and even my husband keeps an old pair of his slippers there.  Since we started dating, I began stocking up on fuzzy, warm socks which I always toss into my overnight bag when we go visit*.  In fact, pretty much anytime I go to stay at anyone's house, I bring the fuzzy warm socks, because it's just necessary.  I don't bring the socks to my friends houses when I am just coming over for dinner, although I'm thinking to start.  I also have a couple of pairs of shoes that I wear without socks, so when I have to remove those and am barefoot, it's quite chilly.

I've been wondering for a long time what the solution to my issues are.  I repeat, I definitely understand why people ask others to remove their shoes when they come into their houses.  Especially with hardwood floors, or pets, or children, or me as a friend.  However, I think that there are a couple of things that hosts could do to consider their guests feelings when maintaining a shoe-free household.  One friend on Twitter (I think Beth) suggested providing a basket of slippers for guests when entering your house.  Since slippers are generally pretty generic sizes, I thought this was a great idea.  Another alternative would be to provide a basket of socks.  I think a final alternative is to remind guests when inviting them over for dinner that you maintain a shoe-free home and they are welcome to bring their own slippers or socks.

Do you maintain a shoe-free home?  Are there any alternatives that I haven't suggested for making sure that both your guests are comfortable and your house stays neat and tidy?  Would you ever implement any of my suggestions?

*I think my mother-in-law also turns the heat up when we come to stay.  She's a nice lady.  She also buys me slippers for Christmas, but I don't yet have a spare pair to move up to their house.  I did find a pair of fuzzy socks in my stocking this year.  


  1. This is good food for thought. Econo Man and I have generally been a "keep your shoes on" household, but now the result is that our off-white carpet is absolutely disgusting. We're getting it cleaned soon and after that we may start being a shoe-free household, at least for ourselves. I like the idea of providing slippers to guests.

  2. I'm from Japan, where every house (as well as schools and often places like doctor's offices, inns, and even some areas of restaurants if they have tatami mats) is a no-shoe house. Children have their own in-school shoes that they change into every morning and change back into their outdoor shoes for things like recess, and slippers are provided at locations where you have to take off your outdoor shoes.
    Our apartment is a no-shoe apartment, but I do feel bad especially in the winter months asking people to take off their shoes. It's pretty cold, and my husband and I both have comfy fuzzy slippers. We do turn up the heat when we have guests, but it's probably not enough. Sometimes I take off my slippers in solidarity...I've thought of starting a guest-slipper basket (a must in Japan), but my husband thought it might be kind of weird to offer our friends slippers that others have already worn. May be worth considering, though.

  3. I keep a pair of socks in my purse for this very reason! Several of my friends have shoes-off policies and I hate it if I'm wearing flats and then have bare feet. Our house is a 'shoes off if you feel like it' -- husband and I almost always take our shoes off at the door but I would never ask guests to do it. We have a dog, and it's not like we wash his paws every time he comes in the door, so really what's the point of taking shoes off?

  4. It wasn't this Beth who suggested that. We're firmly shoes on people (for now). I mean, who am I kidding? Sprocket came inside after rolling in dirt for ten minutes and flopped down in the bathroom. I have no right to ask guests to take off their shoes.

    BUT between the aforementioned dog and Forrest tromping in the house to use the bathroom and get something to drink from the shop our floors are always a mess. In our next home, which will hopefully be the permanent one we thought this one was going to be, the kitchen/entry will be shoes on (with a bathroom accessible either there or in the garage/shop) and beyond that point will be strictly shoes off. With slippers provided, of course. Seems to work for our friend Danette...she's managed to maintain white carpets while living in the desert...and that's a feat (still have to figure out what to do with dirty dog).

  5. We live in a cream-carpeted rented house with an almost-crawling (read: face down, a lot) baby, but we have a dog, so we're flexible. I don't think anyone who has visited us has ever tried to come in with shoes on - they just automatically take them off at the door. I figured that was just how people do things. Like how it's ok if you put a dirty spoon down on one spot on the kitchen counter, but you're not going to put several dirty spoons down all over the counter. No point in being a Monica about it, but trying to minimise dirt where practical.

  6. We're a shoe-on house, but I definitely get it when places aren't. In fact, I think I'd prefer us to take off our shoes when we come into our own house . . . I almost always don slippers immediately when getting home anyway -- or go barefoot in the summer. Himself isn't having it, though. He thinks the shoes-off thing is silly. We won't be settling this anytime soon.

  7. I grew up shoes-on, Roger grew up shoes-off. It's easier to keep the apartment clean, so we try to make it pretty obvious that we'd like you to take off your shoes when you walk in (there's a big pile of shoes at the front door, and we're barefoot), but we don't force anyone to take them off if they don't want to. Lots of people don't, and I can tell it irks him, but I feel like it's a little rude to ask (it really creeps me out when I go to his parents house and have to walk around barefoot, since I never wear socks, and I don't want to put that on anyone).

    And, by the way, I think saying, "Actually, I've been having some problems with the muscles in my feet, and it's really much more comfortable to keep them on" is perfectly reasonable, especially if you've wiped your feet and it hasn't been raining/snowing. Anyone who says, "Sorry, but you have to be in pain for my clean floors." is probably not someone whose house you'd want to be at anyway.

    1. I agree! I think that it's perfectly acceptable for somebody to say, "actually, I have an injury / I have really cold feet / etc and I'd prefer to keep my shoes on" is totally fine, and I'd never force them to take off their shoes. But I also understand that it's uncomfortable to say "yes" to "would you mind taking your shoes off," nor do I feel like you need to provide a medical reason for wanting to keep your shoes on...

  8. We're mostly a no-shoe household for cleanliness and because we both hate wearing shoes, but it's not a strict policy. Most of our guests catch on and remove their shoes of their own accord, but if someone doesn't or doesn't want to, I would never insist on it.

    I think the slipper idea is cool... but you'd probably have to tell me that's what they're for or I'd think you just own a ton of slippers. ;)

  9. In Hawaii the predominant culture is no-shoe. I think it's an Asian thing? I didn't actually realize people did it differently until I was in college.