Years ago, few people were expected to take their shoes off when visiting someone’s home. In fact, I think it would have probably been viewed as unclean and disrespectful. It also never occurred to anyone to take off their shoes when entering their own home. It wasn’t until I moved to Minnesota and experienced winter, that I learned the ritual of carrying shoes to put on after removing boots during the winter months. But that was as far as it went.
I don’t recall exactly when it began: my ritual of deliberately removing my shoes year round when visiting friends and family. “No need to take off your shoes” some would say; others were a bit curious and asked why. I would give a mundane response such as “Oh, I don’t want to track in dirt.” I was aware there was something much more to it I was yet unable to express.
Then I began traveling to sacred sites around the world where taking one’s shoes off was expected before entering as a sign of respect. That felt familiar. Years later, I began my Feng Shui studies and a concept, new to me, was introduced: our homes as sacred places where entryways are recognized as energetic transitions from the outside world. Taking one’s shoes off acknowledges that transition into the sacred space we call home. I finally had the answer to why the ritual of removing my shoes had become as important to me when I entered one’s home, including my own, as when I entered a sacred temple.
As sacred spaces, our homes are expected to support our health as well as our psyche. Information is increasingly coming to light about the adverse effects of certain building products and materials on one’s health. It is believed 20% of our health issues are related to genetics while 80% are related to life style choices and our environment.
So what, if anything, does this have to do with the subject of whether or not to walk into homes with our shoes on? Actually, quite a bit, as it turns out! I learned an important environmental issue of concern is related to the amount of salt, petroleum (from filling our gas tanks) and pesticides tracked into our homes on the bottom of our shoes. And lawn chemicals, which require sunlight to break down, remain chemically active when carried into our homes on our shoes, out of direct sunlight. And if that doesn’t make you a believer in removing your shoes, a 2008 study conducted by the University of Arizona looked into the question of our shoes as carriers of bacteria. In their study, a pair of new shoes was given to each participant. After the shoes were worn for 2 weeks, researchers examined them for bacteria. They found that the outside of each shoe was covered by an average of 421,000 units of bacteria, including E Coli. In fact, the E Coli bacteria were found on 96% of the shoes! This information is from an excellent blog by Annabel Grey who addresses the subject of why you should take your shoes off at the door.
Feng Shui supports effective change on both a mundane and an energetic level. From a mundane perspective, it would appear removing shoes upon entering helps keep your home, and subsequently you and your family, healthier. At the same time, removing shoes energetically acknowledges respect for the sacredness of the home you have created for you and your family.
Enhancing the Feng Shui of our homes is a life-style choice and an ongoing process. Adjustments are made as our lives change. We re-decorate, re-model, change paint color, and replace furniture and appliances when they no longer function or otherwise serve our needs. We make sure our homes are clean, that everything is working as it should and that clutter is kept to a minimum. Any attention we give our home, by choice or need, supports the intention of taking care of our very own sacred space. And as we do, we are taking care of ourselves and everyone who lives there. “Shoes off” fits right in.