Friday, September 28, 2007

This house is now a Shoe-Free Zone (almost)

My parents have now moved into their apartment down south. I am now the sole caretaker of the house until it sells.

I want to keep the place really clean, so while I am in charge here, shoes come off at the door.

However, my parents will be back from time to time and it is still their house, so technically this is not a proper shoe-less household. I may be getting a lodger soon and I hope she will be agreeable about removing her shoes.

Of course, how many visitors I get depends on how many I invite.

I am holding an "housewarming-up party" soon. I mentioned below that I stated 'Shoes off' on the invitations.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Smelly Feet

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The issue of 'smelly feet' is often raised as an argument against the Shoes-Off rule.

In Western society there seems to be a lot of paranoia about the phenomena of 'smelly feet'. I think this is simply a result of people not removing their shoes very often. Your feet will actually smell a lot less if you remove your shoes regularly. It is unfortunate that we in Britain have not yet reached the civilised heights of Finland, where it is acceptable to remove shoes in business meetings and on trains (not that people do not do so in Britain, but it is frowned upon somewhat).

Nevertheless, I think most people worry too much about this issue. People imagine their feet smell far more than they actually do. I have met very few people who let off much of an aroma after removing their shoes, and most of them were people who did not wash and change their socks regularly.

If people know in advance that they need to remove their shoes, they can make sure they wear clean socks, or even better, bring slippers with them. If they are especially worried about it, they can use some of those fancy foot deoderents.

Feet wil smell a lot less if people wear sandals. Sneakers are best avoided in favour of leather shoes.

Some people will say 'I would rather put up with a dirty floor than people's smelly feet.' Well, I guess people decide on their own priorities. However, stinking feet will leave with the guests. A dirty floor will not. Nor will the dust they brought in on their shoes, and that is very bad for your health.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Athlete's Foot

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An unpleasent fungal infection.

A lot of people mention Athlete's Foot as an argument against people having a shoes-off policy. However, this is a quite unnecessary concern.

Athlete's Foot is generally associated with swimming pools and changing rooms. It is possible to catch Athlete's Foot on one's barefeet at a swimming pool or in a locker room. However, recent research indicates that this is not so likely as was previously thought.

Most importantly, the reason people catch Athlete's Foot in those places is not because people there are barefoot, but because the fungus needs a warm and wet environment. People get exposed to the fungus in the damp conditions. If they fail to dry their feet, the fungus is very comfortable and even more so if the victim puts on sweaty socks.

The fungus will not survive long on the clean, dry floor or carpet of a person's home and so you are very unlikely to catch Athlete's Foot in somebody's house, even if the owner has the condition.

What is more, people who are not wearing socks are likely to put on sandals when they leave, as opposed to closed shoes. Thus, they will not create the right environment for the condition to thrive.

Of course, if you are worried about it, you can always bring some slippers or socks when you visit a shoes-off home.

People who have a shoes-off policy ought to let their visitors know in advance and be willing to lend a pair of clean socks, if not slippers.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Should One Provide Slippers for Guests?

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In some Eastern European and Asian countries, guests change from their shoes into slippers provided by the host.

Some argue that if you intend to have a shoes-off policy in your home, you should keep some slippers for guests to wear. This will make them feel more comfortable and prevent embarassments such as foot odour and holes in socks.

This is a fairly good idea, but I am not so sure. If slippers are provided, then they must either be disposable plastic slippers or else slippers that can go in the washing machine. It would be quite unreasonable to expect guests to wear slippers that have been worn by somebody else that day. I am not sure whether most slippers are machine washable. Some guests might not even trust you that they really have been cleaned and may prefer to stay in bare or stocking feet.

I think the practise of providing guest slippers might be just a bit too weird for British. Many British people will have been to a house where shoes-off was required, but not many people will have been offered guest slippers to wear, unless it was in another country. I think a lot of English guests would prefer to go shoe-less, rather than wear slippers that are not their own.

I think it is a good idea to buy slippers for family and regular visitors and keep them at your house. These should be worn only by the person they are provided for. Hopefully, one's family and close friends would be delighted by this consideration.

Providing clean socks is a different matter. I would suggest keeping a supply of clean socks in different sizes by the door for guests who are not comfortable going barefoot.

I think it is very sensible to let visitors know in advance that one has a shoes-off rule in one's home. That way, they can be sure to wear socks without holes or bring their own slippers if they prefer.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Degrees of Firmness part 2

I think for friends I would go for the very direct no.6 (Could you take your shoes off, please?) and for people I did not know, I would use the more restrained no.4 (Are you alright with taking your shoes off?).

It may be that you are just too shy to use the more direct requests. However, you might find that the softest approach no.1 works a lot of the time. If you are barefoot and there are a lot of shoes by the door, you may get the right reaction just by saying:

You can take your shoes off here, if you like.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Degrees of Firmness

1. You can take your shoes off here.

2. We take our shoes off here.

3. We do like visitors to take their shoes off.

4. Are you alright with taking your shoes off?

5. You don't mind taking your shoes off, do you?

6. Could you take your shoes off, please?

7. Take your shoes off, please.

8. Shoes off.

9. Shoes off now!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Party Invitations

I am hosting a party in a few weeks to celebrate having the house to myself.

I wrote on the invitations:

"Shoes off at the door would be appreciated. Feel free to bring some slippers."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I liked these home viewers

Today a thirty-something couple from London viewed the house. They were remarkably pleasent people.

I was conducting the tour myself, so I had to request shoes-off myself this time.

The couple told me they always ask visitors to take their shoes off. I have heard that people in London and the south are more likely to keep their homes shoe-free. I suppose with the astronomical house prices in the capital they naturally want to look after them.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Shoes-Off in Churches?

I do like to write posts that reflect the Christian ethos of this blog. Naturally, not everybody who visits this blog is a Christian. But I would still like to hear what you think. If you are not a Christian, would you feel comfortable visiting a church where there was a no-shoes rule?

In many Asian religions, shoes-off is identified with reverance. In the temples of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism, shoes are removed as a sign of respect. For the most part, this custom is absent from Christianity. In fact, in many western churches, removing shoes would be considered disrespectful. There are exceptions to this norm. There is a tradition in Roman Catholicism of pilgrims going barefoot at certain shrines. This is quite common in Ireland. Shoes are removed in the churches of Ethiopian and Coptic Christianity. Also, the custom of shoes-off has been absorbed into the practice of some more recent missionary churches in Asian, in countries like Japan and India. There the custom is not for any theological reason, but simply a reflection of cultural norms. I must admit in Japan, there was something a little surreal, though delightful, about not wearing shoes in churches.

Personally, I am of the opinion that churches might do well to meet in homes rather than special buildings, in which case shoes-off might well be called for. However, most Protestant denominations make use of special buildings. Would it be appropriate for a congregation to require shoes off in its normal meeting place?

There are obvious practical reasons why removing shoes in churches might be a good idea. Firstly, churches invariably have really filthy carpets. If the church wants to keep its building clean and save money on carpet cleaning or replacements, a congregation in stocking feet or slippers would be a great help. Secondly, churches often have a lot of small children playing on the floor, so a shoe-free environment would be safer for them. Remarkably, many churches do not even require shoes-off in their creches. People in this country are rather slow to see that a baby-friendly environment is a shoeless one.

Being a fundamentalist Protestant, I am concerned to follow the Bible in how we 'do church'. Obviously, nowhere in the New Testament does it say that people must take their shoes-off in the meeting place of the church (the earliest Christians met in homes where they might well have taken their shoes off). Does this mean a congregation would be wrong to make it a rule? No, not at all. The Bible does not say that we should forbid people to smoke in church, but certainly a church should forbid people from doing so. It might be inappropriate to not let somebody in if they did not take their shoes off, but there is nothing wrong with having a sign requesting it or leaving a shoe-rack at the entrance.

One might argue that having a shoes-off rule would give the impression that the church building is a temple which is sacred in itself. Such an idea would be foreign to Christianity. On the other hand, though there is nothing special about the building in which a church meets, the worship and preaching that take place in the service are holy. Christians as a people are the temple of God, indwellt by the Holy Spirit and there worship together is a most blessed thing. Removing shoes would reflect the solemnity of the proceedings.

Another argument against such a practice would be that many churches contain a lot of elderly people who would find it difficult to remove their shoes. This is true. A church which has a congregation with an high average age would do better not to adopt such a practice. However, a lot of churches like Woodgreen Evangelical Church, which I attend, have very young congregations. The majority of people who attend my church would have little difficulty removing their shoes I am sure.

Many churches aspire to be 'seeker-friendly.' By this, they mean that they hope to make their church as welcoming as possible to visitors. Would having a shoes-off rule in the church run counter to this? I suggest not. Britain is a multi-cultural society. People are used to the idea that there are many different religions in the country with different customs. A lot of people know that if they visit a Mosque or an Hindu temple, they need to take their shoes-off and would not make a fuss about that. Many schools take their pupils on trips to those places. So a church which required shoes-off would not be such an alien concept today. Many people might find it more relaxed and comfortable.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Different Home Fellowship Meeting

I was invited by a friend to attend a different home fellowship meeting to the one I normally attend.

The people whose house it was at were wearing shoes when I arrived. It is amazing how people with an off-white carpet will walk on it in shoes. It was not in good shape and will certainly not stay that way.

I took my shoes off anyway. It was interesting to see which other people did. A thirty-something couple both took off their shoes. Perhaps they keep a shoeless home.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Choice

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Some people are of the opinion that it is very important that guests have the choice of whether to keep their shoes on or not.

However, it is not as simple as that. Some choices may impose on the choices of others.

Some visitors may want to take their shoes off, but may fear that doing so will be considered rude. Being informed that shoes-off is encouraged will be a great welcome for these people.

The shoes-on folks might then argue, "Yes, but you can still let people keep their shoes on without imposing on the people who prefer to go shoeless."

However, this is not the case. Firstly, those people who want to take their shoes off may fear, if there are lots of other guests, particularly at a party, that their feet may get squashed by other peoples' shoes. In a crowded party, it can be hard to avoid having people tread on your toes.

Secondly, people who take their shoes off will prefer to walk on a floor that is cleaner. In fact, there is another issue here, as Angie pointed out in a previous post. Some guests will enjoy sitting on the floor. And sitting on the floor is a much more pleasent experience when it is clean. So allowing guests the choice of wearing shoes imposes on those who like to sit on the floor.

The simple truth is that no host can please everybody. However, there are far more good reasons to insist on shoes coming off at the door than for allowing shoes to stay on. Let guests chose between slippers, socks ot barefeet. That is choice enough.

Monday, September 10, 2007

It is not Selfish to ask Visitors to Remove their Shoes

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Some people claim it is selfish to ask visitors to remove their shoes. They think that it shows excessive concern for one's carpet or flooring.

On the contrary it is not selfish at all.

Firstly, there is an health issue involved. Peoples' shoes pick up dust and animal excrement which is not good for one's health and especially bad for the health of one's children. If one has babies or small children that play on the floor it is extremely sensible to keep one's home shoe-free.

There are many worries today about the health risks posed by pollution, toxins and chemicals. Personally, I think many of these health scares are exagerrated. Many of the supposed health risks have not been scientifically verified. However, it is best to keep as much nasty stuff out of the house as possible.

Secondly, the notion of selfishness here is relative. In a country where shoe-removing is the norm, like Finland or Russia, it would hardly be selfish to insist on shoes-off.

In Britain or the USA, where keeping shoes on is the norm, there are many people who would like to insitute a shoes-off policy, but who are afraid of causing offence or being deemed 'selfish.' If a person is brave enough to insist on shoes-off, she makes it easier for those other people who feel that they would like to make their homes shoe-free. In time, the norms of the UK and the USA may change and shoe-removing may become as normal as it is in Thailand or Sweden.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Good Old East Europeans

I saw some East European immigrants loading a car outside their house. I could see through the open doorway that there were loads of pairs of shoes in their hallway!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Home Viewers Again

We had some more home viewers, this time an elderly couple and their son.

I was a bit worried about what would happen if elderly people came. Would the estate agent ask them to take their shoes off? I would not be comfortable asking elderly people to remove their shoes and would hate to be thought mean and unthoughtful.

As it happened, he did not. The estate agent removed his shoes and the visitors followed his example and removed theirs.

I guess old people do not always find it difficult to take their shoes off. My grandmother is 79 and often removes her shoes when visiting our house. She sometimes takes her slippers with her.

I am finding it very encouraging that nobody has so far expressed any unhappiness at removing their shoes when viewing the house.

Stewardship

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I believe there is an issue of stewardship here.

All that we have is a gift from God. We may enjoy our posessions, but we do need to give account to the Lord of how we have used them.

Carpet cleaning services are necessary to keep homes really clean, but they are very expensive. Replacing carpets costs even more. Having a shoes-off policy considerably reduces the need for maintaining carpets and other kinds of flooring. Therefore, as stewards of God's gifts, I would suggest that Christians ought to strongly consider the benefits of having a shoes-off policy in their homes.

Clean homes can also be more effectively used in the service of the Kingdom. Homes can be put to so many uses; entertaining visiting speakers, providing shelter for those who need it, hosting fellowship meetings (I think a good case can be made for holding all church meetings in homes) and Church lunches. Keeping homes shoe-free means that larger numbers of people can be accomdated at the home with minimal impact. It also makes the floor a safer place for small children and babies.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Update: Student who put her flip-flops on train seat wins ‘ludicrous’ case

Times: Student who put her flip-flops on train seat wins ‘ludicrous’ case

Recipricocity

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You may not have a baby at crawling age
But if you ask visitors to your home to remove their shoes, you send a message that it is acceptable to keep your home shoe-free. That makes life easier for those who do have crawling babies.

You may not have a new carpet
You may have an old carpet that needs replacing or a wooden
floor that is covered in scratch marks. But if you have a shoes-off policy, it will make it easier for those who do have a new carpet to do the same.

You may not live in an area where there is pesticide on the ground
But if you have a no-shoes rule in your house, it will make those who do need to require shoes-off feel more comfortable about it.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Times: Student is taken to court after putting her feet on train seat

Times: Student is taken to court after putting her feet on train seat

She had flip flops on. Personally, I think it is okay to put your feet on a seat if you take your shoes off first.

I once went on a coach trip to Austria with my school. The driver told us "If I see your feet on the seat, I will take your shoes off myself." I do not think he did this, but I did not see anybody putting their shoes on the seat.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Comment about church carpets

A blogger from Cheltenham, Jonathan Hunt, visited my church yesterday.

He commented that he could not understand why so many churches have carpets. He said that in one's home one can control what goes on to the carpet, but church carpets always end up getting really filthy and unhygienic.

This is absolutely true.

I keep meaning to write a post about the possibility or not of having a shoes-off rule in church buildings, but I can never seem to get round to it. Sometime.