Overthinking Ordinary Things : Do you make visitors to your home remove their shoes?
The world is roughly divided into two types of people: those who require all visitors to their home to take their shoes off before being allowed to enter, a bit like Gandalf shouting, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” at the Balrog, and, well, normal people. Who would not dream of making such demands of guests.
I’ll let you guess which side I’m on in this one, shall I?
(CLUE: I have never in my life been mistaken for Gandalf. Never.)
From this, you will have (correctly) deduced that I’m very much on the side of the people who allow guests to remain fully clothed when they come to visit. I know this admission will have shocked and scandalised some of you, though, so let me just quickly list a few points in my defence here, before we go any further:
I don’t wear shoes in my own home: not because I’m particularly worried about germs or whatever, but simply because it would be a bit like wearing your coat indoors, and I might be a bit weird about some things, but I’m not THAT weird, seriously.
I DO remove my shoes when entering other people’s homes, if that’s their preference. Your house, your rules, and all that, and if you want me to go barefoot in it, I will not argue with you.
I will really, really hate having to do this, though: partly because it just feels a bit awkward to me to be wandering around someone else’s house in my bare feet/stocking soles (Especially if it’s a party or something, and I’m otherwise dressed up for it…), but mostly because I’m incredibly self-conscious about my feet. They’re just… they’re not nice, let’s put it that way.
And yes, I know I could wear socks to cover them up, or whatever, but not all outfits work with socks, and if it’s the height of summer I’m probably not going to be wearing them… which leaves me squirming with embarrassment and trying to keep my feet awkwardly tucked underneath me, so people don’t have to be grossed out by them.
Because of this, I never ask visitors to my house to remove their shoes either. I mean, they’re welcome to, if that’s their preference, but I don’t insist on it: I want people to feel comfortable, after all, and that’s more important to me than keeping the floor spotless, so shoes on, shoes off… it’s all the same to me, really.
I’m happy to report that so far no one has died because of this lapse in my house-keeping standards, and, because we don’t live in a field, or have packs of dogs roaming the neighbourhood, no one has ever managed to trail mud and/or dog poop across the floor, either.
(I mention this purely because every time I hear someone make an argument for removing shoes, it always seems to revolve around the assumption that if you don’t take your shoes off and then sterilize them the second you’re through the door, there will be no way to avoid tracking poop throughout your house, but, no, that’s never happened.
I guess there’s a possibility that microscopic particles of poop, which are too small to be visible to the naked eye, have been trodden into my floors without my knowledge, but we had a dog for 14 years, and, as there was no way to get him to remove his paws when he came in from outdoors, I’m pretty sure my floors have seen it ALL when it comes to minuscule particles of stuff. Thankfully, though, floors can be cleaned: which brings me neatly to my next point…)
Because we have wood floors, which get cleaned most days anyway, it wouldn’t really be a huge deal even if someone DID track a bit of dirt in the house. I’d just clean it up once they’d gone, and that would be that. I totally get that I might feel differently about this if we had pristine white carpets or something, though, although I would also hope that, as the visitors to our house are generally self-aware enough to know when they’ve walked through mud, or are covered in dog poop, they’d come to the ‘shoes off’ conclusion themselves in those circumstances, without me having to ask.
Yes, I am aware that in Japan/Canada/many other countries, removing shoes is very much a cultural norm, and no one gives it a second thought. As I said, I have no argument with the people who like shoes to be removed, and will always obey the rules of the home owner: I just feel happier when there aren’t any.