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Take Off Your Shoes When Entering the House

During the years I lived in East Asia I gained a strong appreciation for some of the customs. These were the things I saw in everyday life that had immediate effects, even if they were only small ones. One of my favorites is taking your shoes off when entering a home.

Let me set the scene: It’s a hot summer day in Taiwan. You’re dripping sweat as you arrive at a friend’s house. You’ve been walking for a while, first from your house to the train station, then to your train, then from the destination station to your friend’s house. It’s hot, so you’re wearing what most people wear in the summer, open toed sandals. This keeps your feet from boiling, but also means your feet are pretty dirty after your long walk.

You ring the buzzer and your friend welcomes you in. Next to the front door is a shoe rack. You take your sandals off and place them on the rack, then grab a pair of indoor sandals off the rack. The indoor sandals have a plastic bottom, cloth sides, and bamboo on the sole. As you slip them on, the strips of bamboo are cool on your tired feet. It’s a small thing, but the sandals seem to say that you are a welcome guest.

I miss those bamboo sandals. (I haven’t been able find any since I moved to the US.) The point really isn’t the sandals. The point is the ritual of arriving, taking off your shoes, and being welcomed in. We try to do this at our house. I enjoy the feeling of coming home and through the act of removing my shoes also put down outside stress and worries. It also makes the floor much easier to clean!

Not every ritual will resonate with you, but there is value in ritual. Maybe your ritual is a hot beverage to start the day. Maybe it’s exercising or meditating at lunch. In these WFH times when a single space plays so many roles in our life, it’s important to use the power of ritual to help us remember our purpose at different times and switch between contexts.