Survival Tip #174: Shoes in a bucket, bin, or basket.
There’s not much quite as comforting as returning home from a long day away and kicking off your shoes. (Well, maybe removing your bra, but let’s stick to the subject at hand.) When you live in a small apartment, you have the added challenge of needing to kick off your shoes without immediately tripping over them. (Not all of us have the space to accommodate a Fred Roger’s-style bench for thoughtful shoe tying.)
But what to do with the shoes once you take them off? Removing our shoes before entering the apartment isn’t just about comfort, but also cleanliness. There’s enough gunk and grime on the soles of New York City shoes that even someone not accustomed to the practice will come around quickly, and it’s nice to have a place to deposit your shoes near the door without tracking any of the nasty stuff inside. Sure, you can bring them in carefully and stow them in the closet—and very we often do—but when coming to and fro several times a day, it’s nice to have a designated spot near the door.
Mostly we stick to the ratio of a few shoes by the door, most shoes in the closets. I’ve written about our closet shoe storage solution before. It’s served us well for the past four years, but the entryway solution has been something of a moving target.
First we used an old crate. Then we started to use the crate for art supplies and relegated the shoes to a big old enamel basin, which worked okay but which frequently got sloppy. When we moved back into our apartment after our paint repair this spring, we revisited our shoe approach and came up with still another iteration of “shoes in a bucket” that’s my favorite one so far. This time, I separated adult and kid shoes. Adult shoes go into a crate. Kid shoes go into a basket perched on top of it. This way, my kids can more easily find their shoes on their own and no one needs to go digging to find the perpetually lost stinky Converse for putting on chubby toddler toes. So far, so genius. Four years in, we’ve gotten a little bold and we put our entryway shoes in the hallway outside our apartment door. We live on the top floor and so there’s a little landing with space for a compact solution.
At my sister’s apartment a few blocks away, shoes are currently getting thrown into a large planter by the front door. Shoe storage solutions are hard to settle on in a small apartment and a planter seems good enough when you’ve just finished a cross-country move less one plant and plus one empty pot. Her apartment, like mine, opens directly into the living area, so what you might be tempted to call an entryway is really just a door—a place to enter—and not accompanied by any kind of more generous architectural feature offering space or storage.
And a family’s worth of shoes aside, there’s the additional question of what to do with everyone elses’s shoes—the sisters and nieces and nephews who arrive daily to say hello. At our place, we can have everyone kick off sneaks and sandals and leave them in the hall. Things are a little messy for awhile, but the mess is out of sight and out of mind. At my sister’s, the railroad apartment entrance meets in a skinny V with her next-door neighbor, so even a single pair of shoes left in the hallway feels like an intrusion.
What do you do? The solution can’t be too ugly, because you have to look at it. It can’t be too complicated because the whole point is that it needs to be even simpler than walking the extra paces to a closet and putting your shoes away there. And it can’t be too big because, well, we’re talking about small spaces here.
A shoe cabinet with fancy folding compartments and a slim profile?
A sturdy basket big enough for everything and pretty to look?
A hanging rack inside the closest closet door?
What do you guys use in your homes?
For the curious:
Crate: The gray crate is vintage. The crates in our closet are these large and divided crates.
Rug: The littlest of the Willaby hand-loomed rugs, in seashell.
Kid Shoes: My kids currently each have a pair of Converse sneaks and a pair Saltwater sandals (the Classics work for Faye, but Silas’s feet need a roomier fit and the Sailors have been better for him). For dressier “party” shoes, Faye also has the pair of saddles from Mabo you see here and a pair of Fraileras to match my Pons Avarcas. She was wearing them when I snapped this photo of the kids’ shoes, so you can’t see them here, but I love the Velcro on the Pons which make them easy for Faye to take on and off herself.
Adult Shoes: I’ve been wearing my Nisolo Isla Slides in white for the past two summers and I really like them. They’re a bit dressier than my other sandals so they’re a nice option for days when I want to look a bit more polished but not at all fussy. (After two New York City summers spent walking an average of three miles a day in them, they’re a little beat up, so I might take advantage of Nisolo’s shoe reclamation program next summer.) My brown slip-ons are Pons Avarcas Eco-Classics. I’m a longtime fan of these sandals and I love the slimmer profile of the Eco-Classics. (If you want details on James’s shoes, I’m happy to try to oblige, but something tells me you might not be clamoring for those.)
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