Your neighborhood matters. On the Today show this morning, a real estate expert explained how your home value is related to your neighbors, and bad ones can drag it down. In fact, she said, a major reason people move is to escape bad neighbors.
I know this can be true.
When we lived in Boston, we rented half of a two-family. It was divvied up with one small unit on the first floor (ours) and one larger unit on the second floor (theirs). When we first moved in, our neighbor was a nice single lady with a son, about ten years old. Great neighbors. She moved out a year later, and the New People moved in. Whereas our previous neighbor had respected the fact that she shared space, the New People didn't seem to at all. They hung out on the porch directly in front of our room, with no concern for the fact that they were loud, it was late, it intruded on our space, and they were using our furniture. One gorgeous day we had all the windows and doors open. I came in from outside to find the woman and her daughter inside, and she was letting the toddler bang on my computer. "What are you doing?" I asked, incredulous. "She was curious about the buttons," my neighbor said, "And since your computer is off, I thought it was fine." "Umm, no," I told her, "The computer isn't off, it's on screensaver, and it's not fine, this is my house, you need to leave." As I tried to fix the damage the child's random button pushing had wrought, I thought of all the lost nights' sleep from their nocturnal activities and how sharing this space was not ever going to work well. My husband and I decided to move, as quickly as possible.
More recently, my friends and I were gathered, chatting, while our children played. One friend seemed stressed and another inquired why. "We're selling the house," the first friend told us. We all gasped in shock. Only two weeks before she'd completed some gorgeous remodeling to the downstairs, including a completely brand-new kitchen, top of the line custom-made everything. She'd proudly taken us all on a tour, and smiled as we ooh'd and ahhh'd. "What in the world...why would you sell?" someone asked. Our friend looked sad, but resolute, "We have to. I don't see any other way and I've tried for years. I can't take the neighbors any longer. Do you know, some days, if I see them outside, I just drive past the house and keep driving for a while until I think they're gone?"
Apparently this is more common than I realized. I can't find any statistics, but I found thousands of Web sites dedicated to support of people with bad neighbors, advice on how to sell when you have bad neighbors, instructions about how to deal with bad neighbors, and ideas about how to avoid bad neighbors when moving. There is even a Web site called rottenneighbor.com that allows people to write and read about bad neighbors. "This service saved us from living next to bad neighbors," endorse Ted and Marlene from San Diego.
This got me thinking about boundaries. What causes such an intrusion across boundaries? Is it an issue of entitlement? Misunderstanding? And, why does it continue?
In the case of our neighbors, although I politely let them know they were crossing our boundaries, they refused to alter their behavior, and in fact, asserted a rude sort of superiority. In short, their belief was that my husband and I simply had to adjust to accommodate them as they were. Some of the most egregious behavior involved their child. My husband and I are as kid-friendly as the next guy, but we believe in boundaries for kids, too. No, it's not my job to stop and let your child stroke my fleece jacket as long as she wants when I am rushing to catch the bus to work. It is your job to teach her not to come into my house and get into my things.
In fact, when I scan the bad neighbor stories, complaints about how parents allow their children to behave are not only common, but are prevalent. People don't seem to blame the kids, from what I read, but they do hold the parents accountable. Although castigating parents is a national past-time these days, that doesn't mean there is not some validity to it too.
A friend of mine told me one time she was bewildered about how to deal with her neighbors who seemed to consider her a drop-in babysitter. "Any time we happen to be home," she told me, frustrated, "Seems to indicate we are open for daycare business. They'll pop by with their kids, their kids will start to play with ours, then they'll say, 'Oh, we need to run, but the kids are having such fun, how about we come back to get then in a few minutes, instead of prying them away now?' I'll say okay, then not five minutes after they leave our house, I see them hop in their car and leave! Somehow I end up stuck with their kids for hours! I've tried saying, 'Not today, we have to leave in ten minutes,' but they'll counter with, 'Okay back in five!' and I'm stuck...again. I've just stopped answering the door, and I've started turning the kids away all the time now. I don't know what else to do."
I feel safe hazarding a guess that someday when these kids are adults, it's a strong possibility that their neighbors will be complaining about their lack of respect of boundaries.
I don't think it is so much that a problem occurs, but that some neighbors are unwilling to address the problem. My dog has run outside after dark and suddenly let loose a ferocious string of loud barking. I'm sure my neighbors wince. But we don't make this a habit, and when it happens, we immediately address it and bring the dog inside, quiet him down. My neighbor has a sawing habit. I'm not sure what he saws, but he does it frequently. The high-pitched whine can be irritating, but he restricts it to daylight hours and is respectful of others' schedule. My next door neighbor asked before extending his fence, and when our tree crushed their back yard, they were nice about it, and we had the tree removed as quickly as possible.
I think for most people, willingness to try---to try to understand the other point of view, pick up on cues, understand communication, respect boundaries, address issues, etc.---is what matters more than never having a problem.
It seems as if there is a common, generally-held idea of what makes a good neighbor. Do you agree? Is it possible in such a diverse society of individuals that we can hold a common idea of how to be a good neighbor?
Have you had a good or bad neighbor experience? What made it so, and how did you resolve it?
How can we be good neighbors and add value to our neighborhoods?
Tomorrow...it's Hump Day.
For the Hump Day Hmmm, how about we talk about being good neighbors in the world? Macro or micro, general or personal, workplace or socially...it's up to you. Old posts or new posts are equally welcome.
To join in the Hump Day Hmmm...
Write a new post (or use an old post), link back to my blog (http://theartfulflower.blogspot.com) and mention the Hump Day Hmmm roundtable, and email the link to your post to me at j pippert at g mail dot com. I'll add your link in to the Hump Day Hmm post. Enjoy!
Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Ravin' Maven REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Ravin' Maven RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
About-HOUSTON-TX.com: HOT scoop about H-Town!