Communities have changed over the years. Long gone are the days when a move into a new neighborhood meant a frig full of gifted Jell-O molds. And these days, it takes serious courage to knock on a neighbor’s door to ask for help. In the past, neighbors were, well, neighborly. Missing an ingredient for those cookies you’re baking? In bygone days, neighbors would gladly part with an egg or two. Heck, they come by the dozen. These days, not so much.
In the 90s, sitcoms portrayed unforgettable versions of too-friendly neighbors like Kimmy Gibbler, Steve Urkel, Cosmo Kramer, the hilariously hidden-faced Wilson, and the entire cast of Friends. Nowadays, these caricatures are almost unbelievable. The art of neighborliness is no more.
Being a good neighbor in an apartment or townhome community is even more challenging than on a block of single-family homes, but in both cases, it is a virtue. If you’ve ever experienced a good neighbor in action, you’ve felt the warmth and hospitality that are the result of their friendliness. Usually, their actions are contagious and tend to cause a domino effect that spreads goodwill to anyone nearby.
Regardless of the type of community you live in, there are some basic things you can do to make sure you’re being neighborly. You might be surprised at how much good can come from implementing a few positive habits into your everyday life. So read on, be a good neighbor, and watch. Your community might transform before your very eyes.
Remember the Golden Rule
To be a good neighbor, you’ve got to be mindful of the people around you. If you find this difficult, just remember to treat your neighbors the way you’d like to be treated. If you don’t enjoy being woken up by the sound of blasting music, don’t blast your music late into the night. How would you feel if your neighbor shoveled your sidewalk for you? If you’ve got the time, a few extra minutes of work on your part could brighten your neighbor’s entire day. When you park your car, don’t take your neighbor’s spot or block their access to the building. Be respectful of their space, because you would want them to be respectful of yours.
If you get in the habit of practicing the golden rule, you may even start to think of your neighbors before yourself. When this shift happens, you’ll be a joy to be around. Everyone might want to be your neighbor.
Get off on the Right Foot
You’ll be more successful as a neighbor if you introduce yourself to your community as soon as you or they move in. An introductory conversation will be easier to navigate than “Hey, I’ve lived next door for the last two-and-a-half years. Want to be neighbors now?” You’ll also have more to talk about. Chat about neighborhood hotspots for pizza or coffee, or whether one internet service provider is better than another.
Your introductory conversation is a great way to learn about what your neighbors do for a living, whether they have children, and what sports teams they cheer for. The sooner you can have this conversation, the better. It will build trust and rapport and score you serious neighbor points. For bonus points, bring a gift. Those Jell-O molds mentioned above are a thing of the past for good reason, but a plate of cookies, some fresh cut flowers, a potted houseplant, or a home-cooked meal are great ways to make new neighbors feel welcome.
Control Your Pets
Not everyone loves animals. Pet owners may find this hard to believe, but it’s true. The good news is, you can be a great neighbor and have happy pets. The key to balancing your pet ownership and neighbor status is understanding your cat or dog’s personality. If you have a dog that likes to run wild or jump up on people, make sure to keep him or her on a leash when neighbors are around. Also, be sure to utilize nearby dog parks and open spaces. Many apartment and townhome communities offer on-site dog parks as an amenity. This is a great feature. Use it!
Pets are a joy, but they can also be a point of contention in communities. Be sure to clean up after your pets. Not cleaning up after your cat or dog is a surefire way to annoy your neighbors. Be mindful of the fact that when you are outside with your pet, you are using space that you share with your neighbors. Be respectful and keep that space clean.
Lastly, if you have problems controlling your dog’s barking or whining, seek advice from your veterinarian. Nothing is more frustrating for a neighborhood than a dog that won’t quiet down. Your neighbors could be trying to read or keep their newborn asleep. If you can’t control your pet and make these things possible for them, they will more than likely hold you accountable. Be a good neighbor. Control your pets.
Invite your neighbors over for drinks. Host a block party. If you’re a parent, set up a play date for you and your neighbors’ kids. Organize a book club or running group. Greet your neighbors with a heartfelt “Good Morning” and a smile. Whether you consider yourself a social person or not, try connecting with your neighbors in these ways. Be the catalyst for community in your neighborhood. Your efforts will positively affect the way your neighbors think of you, the way you think of yourself, and the way you think of your community.
Be Aware and Communicate
Being in close proximity to neighbors is sometimes thought of as a bad thing. But if everyone is on their best neighbor behavior, this nearness can be a beautiful thing. If each person in the community is aware of his or her surroundings, suspicious behavior will more than likely be identified and addressed before an issue arises. As a neighbor, if you actively take in what is around you, you might notice an elderly gentleman struggling to carry heavy boxes from his car to his apartment, or a single mother who can’t get away from her rambunctious kids to run a few errands, or a young professional with her hands full who simply needs help with the door. In each instance, having neighbors nearby who are aware of their surroundings and willing to help is a blessing.
Along with being aware of their surroundings, neighbors should communicate. If you hear of any events, crimes, or unique situations relevant to your neighborhood, be sure to let those around you know. If you have plans to host a get-together, it’s wise to let your neighbors know you might be making a little more noise than usual. Openly communicating with your neighbors will make them feel more comfortable approaching you if you’re doing anything that disturbs them. It will also give you the freedom to address any disturbances on their part, creating an enjoyable living experience for your entire community.