We just moved into a new house, and much to my children’s delight, it is a house with stairs.
Like most kids, they have wanted to live in a house with stairs for as long as I can remember. This house definitely fits the bill, with not one but two staircases, both thickly carpeted (much to my relief). Unfortunately, that carpet is both thick and white. Not bright-white, luckily, but definitely a uniform cream-color — the kind of color that provides a perfect backdrop to highlight every speck of dirt tracked in by little shoes.
After the first, chaotic day of moving was over, I found more than one patch of dirt where none had been the day before. They came up easily enough, but it was enough for me to instate a rule that I’ve been wanting to reinstate for years anyway — no shoes in the house.
Growing up, we had friends who didn’t allow shoes in their home. I always thought it was a weird rule and was often slightly embarrassed when I had to take off my shoes and had a hole in my sock or happened to be wearing a dingy, well-worn pair. I didn’t understand the rule, and since most of the families who had that rule were Asian, I assumed it was a cultural thing. And it is more common in other cultures, but it’s based on common sense about the kind of things our shoes pick up … things we definitely don’t want tracked across the carpets our kids play on, according to a University of Houston study recently broken down at The Hearty Soul:
“It’s amazing how far humans travel during the day,” said Professor Kevin Garey, study co-author. “And all that walking drags in germs and bugs.” According to his findings that studied 2,500 samples, about one-quarter of shoe soles tested positive for a bug that can cause painful stomach cramps. Last year, the University of Arizona studied bacteria on shoes and discovered that 440,000 units of bacteria attached themselves to the soles within two weeks. In fact, according to the researchers, bacteria thrive better on shoes than toilets … Chemicals used in farming or toxins you throw on your lawn can also make their way in to the home via your shoes. A study by Baylor University in 2013 showed people who live near asphalt roads sealed with coal tar had an increased risk of cancer from toxins as they were brought in to the home by their shoes.
Y’all, that is gross. I knew that shoes picked up bacteria, but I figured it was probably just immune-boosting, like letting your kids eat off the floor. But you know what I would never do? Let my child eat off a toilet seat or a recently pesticide-covered lawn.
Apparently, though, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing all these years. I can vividly remember a day just a few weeks ago, when Lincoln walked across the lawn that had been sprayed that morning and into the house, where he lapped the kitchen a few times before kicking his shoes off, opening a granola bar, dropping it on the floor he had just walked on, and then picking it up and eating it.
How did I not even make the connection between the pesticides on the lawn and his shoes? I feel like this is one of those trick images, where once you see it, you can’t unsee it. I’ve been letting my children track worse-than-toilet muck across the kitchen and eat off of it for years.
But no more. It’s perfect that this is coinciding with our move, because new rules are picked up more easily in new surroundings, and this rule is going to be enshrined into our home like the proverbial cornerstone. Maybe I can even have a doormat made with a clever phrase like, “Home is where the Heart is, not the Sole.”
Is a shoes-off policy at home really worth it?