A City Girl’s Guide to Loving Suburbia – Chapter 6: Won’t You Be My Neighbor? 

Photo Jessica Lewis

Welcome to your new home! No more sharing walls, ceilings, and floors with your neighbors. It’s time to let loose! Practice your tuba whenever you want, cook all the smelly fish from the sea, paint your house that shade of fuchsia you’ve been dreaming about since you were four-years-old! This is YOUR house, and you no longer answer to a co-op board, landlord, or ornery neighbor. Savor this notion, as I once did, and then we can talk reality. 

Just because you’ve moved out of the city doesn’t mean you get to stop being civil. Yes, you can play your tuba at all hours, assuming you live in a rural area or have soundproofed your walls. Noise travels, so conduct some tests to see what you can hear from the road or the neighbor’s side of the driveway, and then consider soundproofing your walls if the noise can be heard from the neighbor’s side. Leaving Fido outside to bark at the chipmunks or howl at the moon is lovely for him, but your block-mates may not find his crooning so charming. 

We all want to be good neighbors but what exactly does that look like in the ‘burbs? New Rules, and plenty of them. For starters, let your neighbors know ahead of time if you’re planning to do major work on your house; ask your fence company to put your new Residential Privacy Fencing up with the pretty side facing them and be sure you don’t encroach on their property line. I would recommend you do your research and hire fence builders that are experienced and well-established so that you can be sure the end result meets your expectations. Lower the music at night when you’re hosting your BBQ ragers and drop off a bottle of wine or fresh-baked cookies/muffins when someone has a baby, loses a parent, moves onto the street. Make sure that your motion detector spotlights aren’t left on all night, beaming right into their bedrooms. If you’re lucky enough, as I am, to be on a block-party block, step up to help plan it, or at least RSVP “yes.”  

Keep in mind that your decision to give the gardener the summer off or to put off addressing your peeling paint affects everyone’s enjoyment and property values (find another way to cut costs if needed). And, please, schedule your FreshDirect deliveries for after 8 am, so the beep-beep-beep of the truck backing up doesn’t wake the neighbors kids and their dog!  

Give a trusted and available neighbor your key to hold and offer to hold one for them. This comes in handy when you accidentally lock yourself out of the house braless, in your PJs, with no shoes to chase down your runaway cat! This, of course, never happened to me—it was my dog, and the sanitation workers were heroic in their wrangling of my crazy little guy! My husband insists that it was the braless part that motivated them!  

You may be saying to yourself, “I already know these rules!” If so, I applaud you. These are basic courtesies, yet folks can get carried away—with a big backyard party or a massive renovation. What to do if your neighbor hasn’t read these rules? (You can forward them this piece for starters!) You no longer have your super, doorman, co-op board, or management company to discretely deal with such issues. Now it’s personal! Cameras at the doorbells have made slipping an anonymous note in the mailbox challenging, and people can get feisty, so proceed with caution. Sometimes a low-key call to the local police can help alleviate an awkward confrontation if there is an ongoing issue. But always keep in mind, your neighbors are gonna be around until one of you moves. Be as polite and flexible as you can possibly be! 

Find this blog at riverjournalonline.com/CityGirl – I’d love to hear about how you were a great neighbor or perhaps some stories of a not-so-great one! Feel free to share the struggles that you’ve had adjusting, knowing you’re not alone!  

Hillary is a city girl-turned-suburban mama and a social worker-turned-realtor who focuses on the transition over the transaction. As a top-producer with Hillary’s Homes at Houlihan Lawrence, she has clearly embraced life in the suburbs! 



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About the Author: Hillary Landau