Anyone who has been to our home knows that when you go to the ___'s house you have to remove your shoes--please. It is a habit my husband and I decided right from the start we wanted to establish. (We also decided--particularly when our first child arrived right at the beginning of flu season--that our other "entrance habit" would be to always wash our hands, which has also helped keep outside grime, germs, and illnesses to a minimum. But, this post is about shoes.)
We have gotten mixed reactions from others about this little bit of extra effort required to come into our home. Most people graciously comply and don't seem to think a thing about it. Some give us the impression they are humoring us but they think it's a silly rule. And a few years ago, one (an adolescent boy) even walked the short way down the street from his house to our house in his socks so he wouldn't have to take off shoes. Obviously, that defied the point, so he then had to remove his (blackened) socks. When the reactions are even slightly negative I am always surprised because this is something that makes so much sense! Many cultures--including Asians and Russians--have this same tradition and I'm not sure why Americans haven't fully adopted it yet (though I do know many people who have).
Need a few reasons why this is a good practice? The quotes below say it as well as I could...
"In many cultures it's customary to remove your shoes before entering a home for spiritual or practical reasons. And as a mom, I encourage the practice because I want a clean home. But taking off your shoes not only helps keep your home cleaner, it also helps keep it healthier. Think about it. Where have the bottom of your shoes been? If you've stopped to fill up your car, you can track home gasoline on your feet. If you've walked through a freshly treated lawn or putting green, you can track home toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Seemingly benign dirt can have traces of lead in it. You walk through it, then you walk through your home leaving traces on your rug, your baby crawls past, and then stops to put her hand in her mouth. Get the picture?
"The professional cleaning industry estimates that we track 85% of the dirt in our homes in from the outside on our shoes or paws of pets. In a recent warning about lead exposure, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) specifically recommends that shoes remain outside the house."
From another website (that I can't find now--this is a re-post from my family blog):
"Besides not tracking in all those germs and toxins that can travel on your shoes, you'll reduce your need to clean your floors and carpets. Always a good thing, reducing your use of electricity, cleaning products and your precious time spent cleaning.
"Also, if you have carpets, they will last a lot longer if you only tread on them in your socks. Good for the earth, and your wallet."
Once your family is in the habit--including tiny children--it really is no big deal because it truly is habitual. My kids even automatically take their shoes off at other people's houses where it's not a rule.
The reasons I'm glad we have this habit/ritual is:
1) I don't like cleaning house any more than I have to,
2) It keeps our carpet looking nice a lot longer (since, while living in an apartment, we don't have a choice about whether we have carpet or not), and
3) I'm sure it helps my allergies to leave as much of that icky stuff outside as possible.
If you need any more reasons, do an internet search and you'll find many sites, like this and this.