Whether you rent a city apartment or own a family home in the countryside, live miles away from your nearest neighbor or are situated close enough to chat from your own back patio—you can make small changes in your community every day by quite simply just acting in a neighborly way.
The importance of being a good neighbor extends far beyond improving bonds with those you live closest to. In fact, Harvard professor and author Robert D. Putnam says, “Communities work better (students perform better, crime rates are lower, kids are safer, people live longer) when neighbors know one another better. Knowing your neighbors on a first-name basis, as National Neighborhood Day suggests, is a surprisingly effective first step toward a better America.”
So to help inspire the practice of neighborly ways in your own community, I’ve gathered a list of top things good neighbors do.
Take the time to establish good terms and build relationships with all neighbors.
Great neighbors make their communities friendlier and safer, while improving the overall quality of life for themselves and those who surround them.
Pay it forward.
Every time a neighbor does something nice, he or she pays it forward to at least two other neighbors. Even simple things—like clearing a neighbor’s driveway before he or she gets the chance to, offering up a piece of lawn equipment to save a neighbor valuable time, or bringing along an extra latte on your morning walk to work—can have a huge impact on a neighborly relationship.
Do your part.
Keeping the neighborhood looking beautiful is a community effort, and good neighbors keep all spaces that are visible by others clean and well maintained. They keep up with basic yard work, making sure that the lawn is mowed, hedges are trimmed, and weeds are kept at bay; they understand that these tasks not only impact the value of their house, but also the homes around it.
Follow up with seasonal maintenance.
This includes sweeping up leaves in the fall, shoveling sidewalks and driveways in the winter, and cleaning up lawn clippings during warmer months. The neighbors that brighten up their outdoor space with flowers and other landscaping set the precedent for the rest of the street.
Good neighbors take care to put their trash out on the right night, and in proper receptacles, so that the whole street doesn’t see (or smell) what they’ve tossed.
Be conscientious about outdoor decor.
Decorating for the holidays is a great way to spruce up an outdoor space, but make it a house rule that your haunted houses and lights come down within a few weeks of the holiday passing.
Don’t fight for the right to party.
When having additional people over, the noise level can go up very quickly. The most courteous neighbors inform others of get-togethers, and ask to let them know if the gathering has gotten too loud. Better yet, they invite all the neighbors to the party!
Take an active presence in change and community decisions.
Caring neighbors stay informed on community issues and make it a point to vote. It’s likely that you and your neighbors have busy lives and schedules, but if the community comes together as a group, change can happen more efficiently, and issues can be resolved more quickly. Plus, just showing up at community meetings and offering input shows that they care about the community and the people who share it.
Good neighbors teach their kids what both literal and figurative boundaries mean by explaining where their property ends and the neighbor’s begins, and any rules that go along with that. They also reinforce the concept that being on one side of the property line doesn’t mean noise levels can be ignored.
Know how to bring people together.
If their community doesn’t already have a method of sharing news, good neighbors would start a neighborhood e-mail list as a means of staying in communication with all of the neighbors in one fell swoop; and the best part is, once it is started, they don’t have to be the only one who keeps the momentum going. Any participating neighbor can spread the word about news, events, crimes, special garbage pickups, special event parking restrictions, weather hazards, school closings, and even the awesome weekly deal at the local market.
Eventually, the positive energy that these good neighbors spread will create a ripple effect of random acts of kindness and make the community a happier place to live. The next time new neighbors move in, consider welcoming the newcomers with a friendly hello and some local insider tips to quickly become the favorite neighbor on the block. Or choose from our collection of bright and cheerful neighborly greetings for anytime-gratitude that really stands out.