It turns out Mom was right: it really is a bad idea to track muddy, or really any kinds of shoes, into the house. The Asian cultures have known this for centuries and have always insisted that shoes be left at the door, but it's kind of a new phenomenon here in the west.
There are a lot of pollutants that get stuck on the soles of our shoes: dirt, pesticides, fecal matter, and dust (which provides a wonderful biosphere environment for dust mites, mold, viruses, and germs to breed) all ride in with us whenever we walk in the door. It's especially bad if you have carpeting which acts like a gigantic doormat sucking up all the pollutants it can from your shoes. The problem isn't so much the gunk we track in, it's the chemicals we're forced to use to get it back out. Carpet cleaners, bleaches, harsh chemicals, and dry cleaning (for winter coats) are regularly used throughout our homes as we try to combat all the dirt that has been drug in.
Keeping your house clean can be as simple as removing your shoes as soon as, or right before, you walk in the door. Now for me this is a bit of a challenge. Our home doesn't really have a foyer. Or a mud room. Or a convenient place to leave shoes. We usually enter from the garage so our shoes get taken off as soon as we enter the house through the dining room. This means that our dining room always has an empty shoe tray with 4 or 5 pairs of shoes scattered around it. And the shoe tray always has a nice layer of sand, cut grass, and dust to make it look especially appealing, being as it's in a dining room and all.
My husband is not yet convinced.
This is my vision: The dining room is a perfect square so we put a big comfy chair with ottoman angled in one corner. (We already have the chair, it lives in the basement waiting to be rediscovered). That provides a perfect spot for putting on/taking off shoes. Then we line the back wall with those gorgeous cubbies from Pottery Barn (or a knock off from Target, you know how I love Target), add a round rug in the center of the room and call it a day.
I like the idea of a proper place to put all our shoes. I like the idea of coats, backpacks, purses, umbrellas, briefcases, and lunch bags having a permanent home as well. All of those "outdoor" items that get tossed on the floor, drug across the classroom, dropped on the floor of the car, and thrown into the corner of the office pick up a lot of dirt and germs. Finding a spot, preferably close to where you enter your house, for these items to live means containing a lot of dirt and germs, which makes cleaning a lot easier. It also means less wear and tear on your carpet. Which means you'll replace your carpet less frequently. Which means less waste going into a landfill. Which is green. Or you can use gentler cleaners on your hardwood floors. Like good old vinegar and hot water. Which is green. And y'all know how much I like to be green!