Do you remove your shoes on entering your home? Many of us who are not culturally predisposed to this activity avoid thinking about it because we are conflicted about starting a daily routine that you would then need to impose on others.
There are many kinds of sanctuary this routine can bring, and here are seven:
Natural Style, Easy Grace
From Dutch homes of the 15th century, where it was not permissible to set foot in a room without first removing one’s shoes, to removing shoes at the front door in most Asian homes as a mark of respect to the house and to honor its cleanliness and purity, taking off one’s shoes at the front door can be a deeply ingrained cultural habit.
For those of us who don’t share this habit, a good reason to consider initiating it is grounded in the pollutants they carry in from the outside world.
The benefits of removing shoes are many, including:
- Taking off one’s shoes at the door can be a simple celebration of everyday life, as easy as kicking off your shoes at the front door to symbolize leaving behind the harried outer world, then lighting incense and being soothed by the subtle aroma of lavender wafting through the house.
- Less dirt and small rocks gouge our floors, gently buffed by bare feet in the warmer seasons and by softly slippered feet in the cooler months.
- Bare feet are treated to the comforting sensation of walking on smooth wood, or other flooring, an uncommon experience in itself.
- Less time is spent cleaning the floor.
- Infants and young children with more sensitive immune systems inhale cleaner indoor air.
- A healthier home is ensured because shoes track in lead, pesticides and other pollutants, contaminating carpets and floors, turning a home into a toxic place for pets and young children, especially, who spend more time on the floor.
- Shoes in Japan are left in the foyer, and traded for house slippers, with the gesture being both symbolic and a conscious desire to leave behind the outer world by shedding, literally, the first obvious steps—shoes.
- Home is seen as a separate, special place, a sanctuary.
Adapted from Japanese Style, by Sunamita Lim (Gibbs Smith Publisher, 2007).