Free Your Space: If the shoe fits, where’s the matching one?

Whether it’s your own shoes or your child’s, are shoes keeping you from walking out your door? On time? Sometimes shoes seem to have a life of their own.  As if there are still feet in them after they’ve been removed and those feet are now free to wander off in their own unsupervised directions.  One crawls under the couch while the other explores the basement.  Sometimes their playful and elusive behavior threatens to make us so late that we give in and tell the 6-year-old that he’ll have to deal with his 4-year-old brother’s shoes for the day.  Even our own adult shoes wander off on occasion (although they are far less confident than kids’ shoes and tend to stay in pairs).  Even so, we know we wore them yesterday and could swear we took them off upstairs.

Facts & Stats:

 ·        > Shoes will only be where we have put them (the shoemaker’s elves do not really exist)

 ·        > 85 percent of the dirt in our houses comes in under our shoes

 ·        > It takes about 21 days to create a habit

Now, with these three ideas in mind, let’s tackle our shoe problem once and for all! 

 1.  In order to put shoes “away” we must first decide what “away” means and make sure that all family members agree with the definition. 

Is there a closet near the front or back door?  Is there space near the door for a basket or bin?  Do you have a mudroom or laundry room that you don’t mind leaving shoes out in?  Is there space by the front door for a few pairs to sit out?

 2. Set limits.

Each family member can’t keep every shoe they own by the front door!  Two pairs are the most that need to be out and handy.  The rest should have a home in the owner’s bedroom. 

The bedroom home should be organized and easy to use – cubbies in the closet, under-bed storage, hanging shoes storage, etc.

 3. Once the areas are designated and limits are set, it’s time to create habits.

Whether you’re an old dog or a young pup, you can learn a new trick if you try.  Repetition and persistence for just a few weeks will help to establish some good shoe habits that can banish those elves for good!

 ·   Don’t like to be “the enforcer” of the family?  Before you begin, designate a different person to be ‘the Fearless Shoe Leader’ each week.  This person will be the one to call out “Shoes!” at the end of each day to remind everyone to check that their shoes are in an elf-defensive shoe position for the night.

 ·   Don’t like walking around without shoes on?  Make the second pair of shoes by the door, slippers.

 ·   Kids don’t like to remove shoes each time they come in?  Save the laces for school and use slip-ons when they’re home.

FiaFinally, try having this conversation around the dinner table or before bed, not when you are already late for school in the morning.  Organization is a life skill, not a punishment!  Whatever progress is made should be congratulated, celebrated.  Stand up in your matching shoes and be proud!

To contact Annette Reyman for organizing work or speaking engagements in the Greater Philadelphia area call (908) 361-7105 or email her at She is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers  and its Philadelphia Chapter.  View her Web site at




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