You’ve finally got a place of your own! Whether it’s an apartment, condo or house, now you can live the way you want. No more parents bossing you around; no more roommates to get in the way of your needs.
Here’s a grown-up tip: It’s not just about you. It’s also about those who live nearby. For example, say you use aerobics videos to stay in shape. Ever stop to think about how those workouts sound to the folks who live directly below you?
Maybe you set up a smoking area on the balcony, to keep nicotine stains off your living-room walls. It never occurred to you that the smoke regularly drifts into other people’s windows.
You probably didn’t intend to ruin anyone’s evening by listening to your favorite death metal at top volume. But now the retirees next door get cigarette smoke and noise from your side of the property line.
If we knew how disruptive these things were, surely we’d stop doing them. But we don’t know until someone complains, or until a police officer knocks.
Check out some of the most common ways that people inadvertently annoy their neighbors. If any of these behaviors sound familiar, maybe it’s time to rethink your life choices.
1. Garbage behavior
Most towns and/or homeowners associations have rules about how early the garbage may be put out for collection and set a limit on how long the bins can stay at the curb. Unfortunately, some people put them out the night before, to make their mornings easier, and fail to bring them in on time, because they’re either forgetful or lazy.
Nothing classes up the neighborhood like the sight of garbage bins sitting outside for days at a time. Unless, of course, it’s the sight of garbage strewn on the street by animals that have knocked them over in a search for food.
Learn the garbage in/garbage out rules. Then follow them. There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?
2. Animal issues
Pets are wonderful! Until they aren’t. If your dog barks for hours at a time while you’re at work, it doesn’t bother you because you can’t hear it. However, some of your neighbors have probably entertained thoughts of Fido-cide.
Then there’s the issue of animal waste. Never walk your dog without a couple of poop bags at the ready. Keep your cat indoors, because it’s probably defecating in people’s garden beds (and because it’s safer for them, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
Some people are tempted to feed ducks, deer, stray cats or other wildlife. This kind gesture can quickly create a nuisance (noise, feces, animal-vehicle collisions) for your neighbors. It may also be illegal. If you feel sorry for the critters, take the money you would have spent on food and donate it to animal welfare causes.
3. Too much volume
That could be the loud music mentioned earlier. Or maybe you regularly invite your pals over for two-on-two hoops in the driveway, complete with loads of trash talk.
Maybe your new place has a pool, which means your friends gather there for splashing, shrieking and kegs galore, plus maybe a smoky barbecue to further torture the folks next door.
Here’s a suggestion: Excuse yourself for a couple of minutes, and go stand in front of the neighbor’s homes. You might be appalled by how loud your guests have become, especially as regards the trash talk. To keep the peace, tone it down.
4. Misdemeanor parking
You’ve got a driveway now, and maybe even a garage. But you like to keep the driveway open for practicing your jump shot. Parking in the garage is a no-no, as it’s full of your big-boy toys.
That means you often park on the street – maybe even in front of the neighbor’s house. And when your friends come over, that means a ton of extra vehicles usurping most of the available street parking.
Or maybe you stack everyone’s cars in the driveway on pool-party days, to the point where the last row of vehicles blocks the sidewalk. Parents pushing strollers, or elderly folks using walkers, have to navigate off the curb and into the street.
There’s only so much parking to go around. Surely there are alternatives to inconveniencing your neighbors.
5. Overzealous lighting
For the sake of security, you installed high-wattage lights around your property. Most, if not all, are motion-detector lights that are so sensitive that a passing cat might set them off.
No burglar’s gonna get in your place! However, your neighbors keep getting random blasts of light every time a raccoon wanders through your yard.
Talk to a security expert about adjusting the setup so an opossum can’t trigger it. Maybe reconfigure the lights so they’re not directly opposite a neighbor’s windows, too.
You grew up in the country or suburbs, and you regularly cut across backyards so you wouldn’t be late to school. As an adult, though, don’t scoot across someone else’s property. If you’re afraid of missing the train or bus, try getting up 10 minutes earlier.
And, as noted earlier, don’t park your car so that it overhangs the sidewalk. If you have kids, or if visitors bring their kids, don’t let them wander onto the neighbor’s property. And definitely control your pets and where those pets poop.
7. Yard work woes
Your weekends are packed, so you’re anxious to get the yard work done early. Be a pal, though, and don’t start mowing or using the leaf blower at 7 a.m. For some folks, weekends are a chance to sleep in. Ask around, and find out what the acceptable time is; in all likelihood, it’s at least 9 a.m. or later.
Worse than too-early yard work is no yard work at all. If you live in a place with housing covenants, the homeowners association will make sure you take care of the place. And if not? Letting the grass and weeds grow high brings down the look of the neighborhood and also provides cover for vermin and insects.
Oh, and if you live in a wintry place, don’t shovel or blow snow onto your neighbor’s property. Why should they have to deal with your share of the white stuff?
8. Bad DIY
Don’t be the folks who paint half of their house and then spend the rest of the summer goofing off. Whoops – now it’s too rainy/snowy to do the rest! Maybe next spring.
How about the guy who has an old car up on blocks but never seems to finish fixing it? Nobody likes that guy, so don’t be him, either.
A half-completed deck, a torn-up lawn that never gets re-seeded, piles of cement blocks and scavenged lumber stacked in the side yard (or the front yard) – all these things make the neighborhood look trashy. If you want to do a project, make a clear plan and follow through. Otherwise, you really could bring down property values – and that’s not fair to your hard-working neighbors.
9. Letting your kids run wild
Kids will be kids. Nobody’s surprised when they make a little noise during play or lose a Frisbee to a neighbor’s yard.
Unsupervised kids, though, can quickly become little terrors. Yelling and screaming nonstop, playing ding-dong ditch, throwing snowballs at passing cars – these and other behaviors suggest that your kids need a bit of reining in.
If you don’t get control, other parents won’t want their kids to play with yours lest they pick up bad habits, and you will be judged (and rightly so!) as a lazy dad or mom.
10. Overdoing the holiday decor
It can be great fun to decorate for Halloween or Christmas. What’s not so fun is living next door to the folks who buy every holiday inflatable that Home Depot sells, and whose Christmas light display is so bright it looks like it’s signaling the mother ship.
Why inflict this on a neighborhood whose residents go for more modest displays? And why set it up in mid-November (as my cousin did), and then leave it up until mid-January?
Obviously, it’s your property. But this isn’t like deciding to paint your bedroom walls plaid, because nobody has to see that. Holiday decor is visible to everyone who lives there or drives by. Maybe take a tip from other people’s decorating schemes, and try to fit in rather than to stand way out.