Blog by Beebe Cline

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How to Get Along With the Neighbors — and Live Happier at Home

Seeing people bringing a tall ladder or power tool from a neighbor's house to theirs is a common sight on my block. In the evenings many of us sit outside on the front porch relaxing, and catch up with others who walk by with their dogs or are just out for an evening stroll. When our chickens escaped into a neighbor's yard, not only were they not angry, but they helped me round up the hens and toss them back over the fence.

Getting along (or not getting along) with neighbors can make a huge impact on our daily lives and how we feel about our home and neighborhood. Whether you live in the city, the country or somewhere in between, learning the art of being neighborly is something that can benefit us all. Here are eight ways to navigate the etiquette of being a good neighbor. When you're done reading, go pour yourself something tasty to drink and sit on the porch for a spell.
1. Be friendly. If you are new to the neighborhood, a friendly smile and hello can go a long way toward establishing rapport with neighbors. Introduce yourself when you run into a neighbor you haven't met yet. And if you've been there awhile and someone new has just moved in, a small gift, like home-baked goods (or a treat from a favorite local shop), is a thoughtful way to welcome him or her.
2. Be considerate about noise. As a rule, keep music and loud outdoor conversations down after 9 p.m., and try not to start up the power tools or leaf blower before 8 or 9 a.m.. If you are planning a party, try to let your neighbors know in advance — and if you enjoy throwing frequent parties, it's not a bad idea to invite your neighbors to one!

If it's your neighbors who are being too noisy, your first step should be a polite knock on the door. Tell them, without sounding angry, that you understand they are having a great time, have friends visiting etc., but it's getting too loud for you, and could they please turn the music down or take the party indoors after a time you feel is appropriate? Be sure to thank them when they do what you've asked.
3. Deal with problems in person. Just as when your neighbors are being too noisy, any other problem should be addressed promptly and in person. It may seem easier to write a note or dash off an email, but written complaints can seem more mean spirited than you intended, and may shut down communication with that neighbor in the future. Give your neighbor a chance to hear what you have to say in a face-to-face chat, and then listen to his or her side as well.

Remember, your neighbor is likely not going anywhere, so even if you do not particularly like him or her, it is in your interest to find a way to get through it together.

On a related note, don't gossip about other neighbors! It may feel like bonding to complain about shared problems, but gossiping generally only deteriorates relationships.
4. Be reasonable about pets. This can be a big point of contention among neighbors, so try to tread lightly whether you are the pet owner or the one being bothered by a neighbor's pets. If something happens once or twice — loud barking, poop on your lawn etc. — take a deep breath (well, maybe step away from the poop first ...) and let it go. If there is an ongoing problem, discuss it directly with your neighbor. Even if you are upset, try to think of something kind to say about your neighbor's pet before launching into the complaint section of your talk.

For pet owners, if a neighbor approaches you with a complaint about your animals, do your best to listen and acknowledge their feelings. Assure them you will do what you can to remedy the situation — scoop the poop, keep your dog on a leash, repair the fence and pay for training if needed.
If you have more unusual pets, such as chickens, it is wise to contact neighbors early on to inform and educate them about their new animal neighbors, and assure them you are taking steps to care for the animals properly so they won't be a problem — that would also probably be a good time to hand over a basket of fresh eggs! And always, always let neighbors know they can come to you if your pets are being a nuisance.

Raise Chickens Without Ruffling Feathers
5. Respect common spaces and shared walls. Keep shared hallways, entrances, and common rooms in your apartment or condo clear of personal belongings. Even though space may be tight inside your unit, it's important to find another place for that stroller or bicycle — crowded common areas can become a fire hazard, or at least a tripping hazard.

If you share walls (or a floor or ceiling) with neighbors, try to keep noise down to a reasonable level all the time, not just late in the evening. If you live upstairs, consider using area rugs over hard flooring to muffle the noise of footsteps — a common complaint among downstairs neighbors.
Outdoor spaces in apartment buildings and condos are often quite close together, so be aware of your drifting barbecue smoke — gas grills may be best in tight quarters. If you smoke, be respectful by not smoking where others may get secondhand smoke.
6. Keep your front yard tidy. There is no need to get into a competition with neighbors over who has the greenest lawn, but keeping up a basic level of tidiness will be appreciated by all. Put your garbage and recycling cans back promptly after they have been collected, keep grass mowed and weeds pulled, and try to avoid storing too many belongings on your porch or in the driveway.

7. Follow local parking etiquette. Always try to park in front of your own house if possible, and never block neighbors' driveways. In some neighborhoods with narrow streets, it is the custom for everyone to park on only one side — even if it's not an official rule, it is best to follow suit.
8. Build community. Building good relationships with neighbors often comes down to the little things. If your garden produces a bumper crop of tomatoes, bring a basket next door to share. Trade tools and skills. Be generous with smiles and be willing to lend a hand if it's needed. And you don't need to be part of a neighborhood watch to help keep your neighborhood feeling a bit safer — simply knowing your neighbors and occasionally chatting with them can go a long way. Let your immediate neighbors know if you will be out of town, and whether you will be having anyone stay at your home while you are gone.

If your neighborhood doesn't already have any events, consider organizing one. Annual events like a block party, an open house or a neighborhood yard sale are a great way to build a sense of community and get to know your neighbors.