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April 6, 2010

Messy neighbors equals to bad neighbors

When we think about “bad neighbors,” we usually think about people who throw wild parties every night, cause domestic disturbances, and create neighborhood scuffles and fights. I’m not saying that’s not true, but I’m saying we’re overlooking something: messy neighbors.

Maybe your neighbors are kind. They smile, wave, or make small talk. Maybe they collect your mail for you when you’re on holidays and exchange cookie plates with you at Christmas. Maybe they’re the nicest, most pleasant neighbors you’ve ever had in  your life. But if their yard (back OR front, or both) is a disaster, they’re still bad neighbors. Don’t believe me? Try to sell your house. Your neighbor’s messy home devalues your own, even if your home and property are well-maintained.

Even if you aren’t trying to sell your home, your neighbor’s hovel makes it hard to enjoy what you’ve worked hard to attain. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend working on your garden, painting your fence, or carefully edging your grass; if your neighbor’s yard is cluttered with rusty furniture, unkempt grass, and strewn with random household items, it will limit the enjoyment you get out of your space. If the view of your yard from your window includes your neighbor’s junk pile, rotted garden shed, and last year’s junk pile, you will spend less time enjoying that view.

I know of some exclusive communities where outdoor house décor must fall within certain codes; styles, colors, etc. I’m not saying we ought to live in that kind of world; after all, we aren’t living in a police state. However, as someone who works hard maintaining their property, it is very disheartening when those around you do not take the same care. In fact, “disheartening” is an understatement; it’s enraging. I like my neighbors, “Mr. and Mrs. Jones” – they’re nice people, and we get along well. However, they own three large dogs; in the winter, said dogs use their backyard as a toilet, which isn’t maintained. In the winter, the snow hides this disgusting mess, but spring is a different story. Yes, they always clean it up (eventually) but never before spring has started; I’m always having to garden with the smell of dog poo wafting over my shoulder.

Sure, we own our properties and we have the right do with them what we like. I understand that; I wouldn’t want someone else telling me what shape to trim my hedges. However, if I outright refused to trim the hedges and had a wild forest growing on the lawn, the neighbors would have every right to feel upset. I’m not sure what happened to community pride, but these days I’m hearing a lot more about people’s messy neighbors, and the struggle to deal. It’s extra-hard when you like your neighbors; you don’t want to start a war. But we should, as homeowners, have a sense of responsibility about our property; it’s not just about ourselves, but about other people.

Spring is coming – it’s time to head outside. Do your neighbors a favor and tidy up. Pick up the garbage, sweep the driveway, mow and edge your lawn. If you have a garden, keep it maintained. Pull your dandelions. Pick up the lawn toys. Clean or replace the lawn furniture. Make repairs as needed. Look at your house from an outsider’s perspective; would you want to look at your home? I like Mr. and Mrs. Jones, but if they take a month again this year to de-turd their yard, we’re going to have to have (kind, gentle, firm) words about it.

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4 Comment(s)

  1. 11120toc | Apr 25, 2010 | Reply

    so glad I found this… glad we’re not alone! We like our neighbors but their junk pile (which is of course out of sight for THEM but the first thing we see every day and every night, not to mention from our porch, deck, and den) is getting way out of control. They’ve acknowleged it but have done nothing. We too are planning yet another round of gentle yet firm words with them. Its embarassing that the first thing our guests see is the junk pile upon arrival. Wish us luck!

  2. Cheryl | Apr 27, 2010 | Reply

    Sounds like quite the headache! Of course the mess is out of sight for them but not for you – that way they don’t have to suffer. People can be very selfish. What happened to neighbourhood pride? What happened to pride in a clean and neat home? You have my sympathies, good luck!

  3. maria Baghbani | May 20, 2011 | Reply

    I live in a beautiful development where all front gardens are well maintained but the view from my house of the front garden opposite is like a bomb site .The owner of that house has not mowed her grass for 2 years,she cut all the lovely trees and hedges and is growing very untidy looking onions and she leaves any rubbish in my view.It is so bad that I could cry every day.One of my very outspoken neighbors has told her that she brings the tone of our lovely street down but to no avail.I have asked several solicitors about my plight but the answer is always the same.She owns the property and she can do as she pleases.Please help before I have a brakedown

  4. Toni | Aug 31, 2011 | Reply

    What do you do if you have messy neighbors on both sides of you? It’s a real fire hazard. I don’t know how to tell the owner in a way he’ll listen. Can someone help?

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