Are you overwhelmed by mountains of shoes? Our houses seem to have ever larger piles of trainers, shoes, boots and footwear of all sorts growing around the front door, in the hallway, in wardrobes or closets, or just cluttering up the front room. It’s easy to buy new shoes, but less easy to decide which old shoes should be thrown away. And some strategy for managing the shoes we do decide to keep is surely needed. We have so much diversity in our busy lives now and we do need a lot of shoes. But when each family member has different boots or shoes for work, school, the gym, the hiking trail or night club, it is definitely time to look at optimising shoe storage.
First things first, let’s look at which shoes you can discard. Clearing out all the old footwear will make the job of organising your shoes much easier. But it may take a few tough decisions! When de-cluttering, ruthlessness is a virtue.
Start with the obvious cases. Any shoe or boot that’s not part of a matching pair is of no use, so throw it out. Of course, if you’re in the midst of a shoe mountain, you may need to hunt around to find a shoe’s companion. How much effort you put into this will obviously depend on how much you want the pair, so you can spare yourself the effort of the search if any of the following factors apply.
Are the shoes too small? This is particularly relevant if you have children whose feet have grown out of their old shoes. It could also be the case that you just bought badly the last time you were shopping. Perhaps you were overoptimistic that you could “wear them in”. But if your shoes are causing you pain, don’t persist, just throw them out.
If old shoes are worn out, don’t be sentimental about them. Holes in the soles will let in water, as will damaged uppers. Plus damaged shoes don’t look too smart, so if you’re looking to make a good impression at work or socially, get rid of these shoes.
If you bought shoes for a particular look, or to go with an outfit, they may have a limited lifetime. If the shoes are no longer fashionable, or you no longer wear the ensemble, then there is no point in keeping them. Have you worn these shoes in the last year? This is a good test for your their viability. If you haven’t you probably won’t miss them.
By now you’ve got a sack full of discards, sitting outside your front door, and the house is already looking a bit clearer. But now the decisions get a little harder. Consider first, how much shoe storage space do you actually have? Finally, you can’t store what you do not have space for. Of course, if you live in a huge mansion, you can probably keep as many shoes as you like, though, of course, that doesn’t mean that you should. So set yourself a target. Then you may go through your footwear, and prioritise the shoes that are necessary, like your work boots or business brogues. And also the shoes that you really care about, like your stylish dance shoes.
Of course, it isn’t always easy to make these judgements. It doesn’t make sense to be choosing between your hiking boots and your kitten heels, for example. Modern life demands different shoes for different situations. So you will need to categorise your shoes so that you can choose the best in each category. Prioritise the necessities, and then, if you still have space, you can indulge yourself with a few nice-to-keeps. But remember the storage target. Keep that quantity in mind because you can’t keep what you can’t store.
So what shoes do you need? There’s no absolute answer to this question. It will depend on your lifestyle, your desires, your work and who you share your life (and your home!) with. The following categories, however, should help you to narrow down your choices.
If you’re into personal fitness, you probably go to the gym a lot and you need shoes for that. You might run, or play sports. A single pair of all-purpose gym shoes might do you for indoor wear. But you probably don’t want to mix indoor and outdoor. Your gym is not going to welcome muddy shoes on their expensive cross-trainers.
Different sports will, of course, demand different footwear, so you will need to make judgements based on how much you pursue these sports. If you’re serious about both football and tennis, for example, you will need separate shoes for each.
Here the situation is different. You probably don’t need much more than one pair of casual shoes, maybe two. But luckily, the criterion for keeping is easy. In fact, your own everyday choices have probably made the decision for you already. Just pick the shoes (a maximum of two pairs!) that you wear the most.
School or Work
Again, this is quite personal and depends on your particular kind of work. You may be able simply to wear your regular casual shoes, but if your school or employment demands a uniform, then you will need the shoes to match. In some cases, there are practical or safety requirements, such as work boots for a building site. But again, be ruthless. You probably don’t need half a dozen pairs of the same basic shoes for work. So narrow it down to one or two pairs.
Social or Party
You will need to have a pair of attractive, presentable shoes for events or parties, or just socialising at the weekend. In fact, you will probably need more. You do want to look (and feel) good, so give yourself that opportunity. However, it is easy to accumulate too many of these, especially if you have shoes that only match particular outfits. Try and choose shoes that are pretty, but adaptable. And limit the numbers to what you have the storage space to keep!
Some kinds of shoes you won’t wear all year round. But you should still keep, for example, sandals for the summer and boots for the winter months. Your needs will depend on your climate and activity patterns too.
You might also want to keep a pair of “dirty” shoes. These are the shoes that you don’t care about but may need if you know they’re going to get filthy. Keep one old pair of shoes that are practical, but that you don’t care too much about. And keep them just for this purpose. You may even throw them out then if they get really messed up. But do not use this as an excuse to keep lots of old shoes!
Now, hopefully, if you’ve narrowed down the choices to the bare necessities, these should all fit in your shoe storage solution. You may find then that your target storage number is still not fulfilled. In this case, you can indulge yourself, just a little, by keeping one or two pairs for more sentimental reasons. Or you could look at the space as an opportunity to buy a new pair. However, the committed decluttering expert should instead congratulate you on your discipline, and leave it at that!