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  • Denise Frakes

Tidy Shoes - A Practice of Presence

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

When my shoes get messy it's a sign my life is getting messy. When I start throwing and tossing my shoes in my's a sign. A sign I'm going in too many directions. I'm not grounded. I'm distracted- too busy. My messy shoes has less to do with keeping house and more to do with keeping mind.

When my shoes are tidy, this tiny act of order, a seemingly insignificant act in a complicated my mind and spirit a place to land. I feel like - if my shoes are tidy, I'm doing just fine.

I'm not alone in the tidy shoes and happy mind fan club. The first time I saw tidy shoes as a practice was in one of my favorite home care books: Simply Imperfect- revisiting the wabi sabi house by Robyn Griggs Lawrence. I remember thinking- yes, there is something to this tidy shoes practice.

"I understood it (wabi-sabi) every time I watched a store clerk carefully wrap a jar of pickles in a pretty paper, turning it into a small moment of celebration. I felt it when my hostess would turn my shoes around to face the door, so they would be easier to slip on when I left."

And from The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyo Masuno..100 Daily Practice from a Japanese Monk for a lifetime of Calm and Joy. The practice he gives is "Line your shoes when you take them off. This will beautify your life. Disorder in your mind shoes in your feet." Spot on!!! Exactly how I feel. Who knew the orderliness or messiness was directly connected to our lives.

Shunmyo continues ..."In Zen Buddhism we have a saying that means "look carefully at what is under your own feet." It has a literal meaning but it also suggests that those who do not pay attention to their footsteps cannot know themselves and cannot know where their life is going. ... "by cultivating this habit, everything about your life will be inexplicably sharper and more orderly. It will beautify your life. This is human nature."

It's the simple things. We live in a complicated world. One that’s becoming more complicated every day. This is why we need simple practices to ground us back into the present moment. Yes, the world might be in a jumble out there…but in my bedroom if I can look over to my shoes thoughtfully placed somehow I feel better.

Shoe tip: I've found when I place my shoes toes out, I'm more mindful. When I toss them in, I toss in toes first. This is my be mindful with your shoes trigger. Toes out. Same goes for the shoes by my front door. Toes facing the door. It is tiny act of thoughtfulness.

Try this: For the next week...or even this whole month. Practice the act of tidy shoes. Just notice. When you place your shoes this way- how do you feel? When you look at your jumbled shoes or tidy do you feel then. And when the shoes in your entrances are kindly placed- see if you feel a wee bit more nourished. I know I do. Simple solutions for world complications this practice should be called.

Before I end this post. I'd like to quote the definition of a wabi-sabi home. This is one of my all time favorite definitions of homes and wabi sabi.

"Wabi-sabi isn't a "look" like French country or shabby chic. Intimately tied to Zen Buddhism and the Japanese Way of Tea, it's a subtly spiritual philosophy that offers a path toward home as a sanctuary, a simple place devoid of clutter, disturbance and distraction-- including the voices in our heads that attach all sorts of tasks and to-do lists to home. Wabi-sabi doesn't suggest we ignore these tasks, but it does say we can pay attention when attention is due and stop worrying about them when we should be enjoying dinner with our families. It focuses on the things as they are, right now. Everything in our homes--from the breakfast table to the attic windows--presents an opportunity to see beauty. Wabi-sabi is a lens." Robyn Griggs Laurence Simply Imperfect

Tidy shoes is an act of beauty…an act of love…a pocket of calm.

happy travels my friends,



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