Question: What is the best way to keep an entry way clean? Is a welcome mat really that important?
Yes a welcome mat is important to have at the exterior of your front door. This is the best way to remove dirt, water and leaves from shoes, before entering the home. Select a mat based on the ability to scrub shoes and collect dirt. Of course the aesthetics are important too, but function in this case should come first. Sisal mats or other types of durable straw are great materials for being able to wipe dirt off of shoes.
It is also helpful to have a runner rug of sorts, that starts at the interior entry way and continues in for several feet. This will give the floors extra protection when people are removing their shoes. The rug in this area should be durable and easy to clean. Do not choose an expensive or fragile rug in this area. It will undoubtedly get a lot of wear and tear here.
Have a catch space for shoes. There should be a designated item or furniture piece that shoes can be placed without worry. Meaning the item itself should be durable and easy to wipe down. If a furniture piece is not an option, place a designated mat where you would like incomers to remove their shoes. Hang a cute sign on the wall, to clearly show guests where to place shoes.
An umbrella stand is a great item to place in the interior entry way. It allows the umbrella to dry, while collecting all of the excess water. Having a place to hang wet coats is also a necessity. There are furniture pieces that can be purchased that are a catch all for shoes, boots and jackets. If one of these pieces is not feasible for you, install hooks on the wall near the door. Make sure there is a mat or rug directly under this space, in order to catch water and keep the floor from being damaged.
Shake out and vacuum mats often. This will keep the overall level of dirt, being tracked inside to a minimum.