Living on Amiable Lane

Do You Know What It Takes To Be A Good Neighbor?

Chicken legs. Shirtless guy. Black lip liner lady.

I have nicknames for my neighbors.

There go the Noseys again, walking around with their clipboards, jotting down violations for the Homeowners Association.

Chicken legs is outside sipping wine from her bedazzled goblet, watching her kids run amok. Shirtless guy is washing his car shirtless, fetching his mail shirtless, mowing his lawn shirtless, playing catch shirtless. Of course, my husband said if he had those man muscles, he, too, would be walking around shirtless.

But then something happened. We became friends with some of them. And we had to learn their names.  

Having good neighbors means being good neighbors.

While my husband and I enjoyed referring to them by their nicknames, it soon became apparent that having good relationships with our neighbors was better than sharing a good laugh.

We’ve lived in our house for 12 years now and have learned that having good neighbors means being good neighbors. Here are 10 things you can do to make living in your neighborhood more enjoyable:

1. Be aware

One thing about the Noseys is they watch cars come and go. “I saw your mobile groomer came by yesterday.” Why, yes, she did. If there’s ever an unfamiliar car parked in our cul-de-sac, they are the first to report it. Keeping an eye on your neighbor’s house, especially when they are away, not only shows you care, but it may help keep criminals away. And it’s worth the occasional letter from the HOA telling you to trim your hedges.

2. Be courteous

Having a party? Let your neighbors know so they’re not irritated when countless cars line the streets or when the noise level seeps through the walls. Chances are, if they know about it, they won’t complain about it. As much.

3. Be welcoming

You don’t need to be a part of a Welcoming Committee to introduce yourself to a new neighbor. When the moving truck arrives, you should, too. Bring a basket of muffins and welcome them to the neighborhood.

4. Be inquisitive.

Is your neighbor’s relative ill? Did they start a new job? Did they get a new puppy? When you move beyond just waving at each other in the driveway and start inquiring about life experiences, it brings you closer together.

5. Swap numbers.

If you find a good plumber, an honest air conditioner repairman, or a great deal on river rock for your landscaping, keep the numbers handy in case your neighbors ask. You did all the legwork and invested days price shopping. Why not spread the savings? And the next time they go researching something you discover you need, chances are they will return the favor.

6. Sharing is caring.

If your neighbor needs a cup of sugar for their cookies or a lime for their guacamole, by all means, share what you have in your pantry. You may need a stick of butter one day. It’s also a good opportunity to talk about recipes and share your favorites.

7. Pick up after your pet.

One of the biggest pet peeves of homeowners are dog owners who don’t pick up after their dogs. Apartment complexes have gone to court over it and some have gone as far as threatening to test the dogpile’s DNA to identify the culprit. Bottom line: It makes people mad. And it makes neighbors go to war. If your dog poops, you need to scoop.

8. Maintain your home. No one likes to see trash in the yard, grass that is a foot tall and screens that are torn. If your neighbor can see it, clean it. Keep your landscaping tidy and mind your boundaries.

9. Talk it out. If something is bothering you, don’t let it fester. It will only result in a bigger blow up later. Approach your neighbor and start a civil dialogue. Keep an open mind and try to work it out. And oftentimes, it’s best not to do it right at the moment something happens, when tensions and anger are running high. Wait a day.

10. Start an internet group. What began as a message board to discuss neighborhood watch issues has become one of the quickest and most effective forms of communication for our neighborhood. It not only spreads the word quickly, but it keeps everyone apprised. When we had a rash of packages stolen from doorsteps around Christmas time, everyone kept a closer watch and went on high alert when random people came to their doors. We also made the collective decision to have a neighborhood garage sale, coming up with a date most people could participate – all over message boards.

These are just some of the things you can do to be a good neighbor and make your life easier.

We now laugh with muscle man and his wife, peach tank top lady (because that’s all she ever wears). We bemoan our oak trees, with their massive root systems, joke about our kids, and discuss our vacation plans.

Black lip liner lady has become one of my best friends. She watches our dogs when we’re out of town, has a key to my house, and is the one I call upon for anything at any time.

Chicken legs still sips her wine, but she’s actually pretty nice and her kids aren’t so wild anymore.

As for the Noseys, well, they’re still the Noseys. You can be a good neighbor to everyone. You just don’t have to be friends with all of them.

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Phuong Cotey
GGRE Editorial Director Phuong Nguyen Cotey is a former newspaper reporter and a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee in feature writing for her work at the San Diego Union-Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times). She left journalism to follow her other interests at a nonprofit public-policy think tank and built a second career around philanthropies and foundations. She's also equally passionate about editing. Phuong is the editor for Life*Vida, a book released in November 2013 by Los Angeles Lakers Center/Forward Pau Gasol, a 2-time NBA Champion and 4-time All-Star. She's also a homeowner who wishes she had a hallway closet by the front door and a bigger laundry room.
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