The first house I ever bought was in a brand new development. Eager to meet the neighbors and fantasizing about borrowing a cup of sugar, I was shocked to learn that their main priority was to figure out what kind of fence we all wanted. Fences? What about the cup of sugar?
Well, I was young, naive, and perhaps idealistic. I now have a great deal of appreciation for fences. In fact, the higher the wall, the better.
Fences make good boundaries, that’s for sure. So do conversations about boundaries. When my current next door neighbors moved in, we became instant friends. In spite of that connection (or maybe because of it), we established the “call first” rule. It’s worked well for more than a dozen years.
At the beginning of my mediation career, I volunteered to mediate community conflicts, most of which were of the neighbor-to-neighbor variety. It surprised me that people in Las Vegas didn’t know their neighbors. Is it because people work all kinds of shifts? Or because our houses are mainly oriented towards the (fenced-in) back yards? In any event, most of those conflicts had to do with barking dogs, and 100% of the issues were resolved by the simple exchange of phone numbers.
Yet sometimes neighbors are the opposite of strangers. Sometimes they are nosy, gossipy, and overstay their welcome. Then what?
Those of us who are old enough to remember the t.v. show “Bewitched,” will recall Gladys Kravitz as the nosy neighbor. While not too many of us are able to utilize witchcraft to control our own Gladys Kravitzes, there are other ways to deal with nosy neighbors. My first suggestion is to actually talk to them. Get to know them. It’s possible that they have some underlying issues that could be driving their nosiness. And you can casually mention your obsession with privacy. Maybe they’ll get the hint.
On the other hand, sometimes the last thing in the world you want to do is extend the hand of friendship to a neighbor. If you suspect something going on that’s not entirely Kosher, before going to any extremes that might create a permanent rift, I’d suggest you first check the local laws and restrictions in your community. In Las Vegas, most of our neighborhoods are governed by CC&Rs (covenants, codes, and restrictions) which control a wide range of things including noise, conducting business, parking, etc. For the annoying neighbor who’s running a midnight auto repair shop in his garage, this might mean a hefty fine or worse, if it’s brought to the attention of the proper authorities.
We’re all entitled to the quiet enjoyment of our homes. (For me, the emphasis is on “quiet.”) I’ve been lucky. My neighbors, at least the ones I’ve known, have all added to the quality of my life. That’s not always the case.
Please comment and share a neighbor experience you’ve had, whether happy or miserable. You’ll be helping my research for a future project, and that would be quite neighborly of you!