Three ways to turn neighbors into friends this summer
May 11, 2018
A sense of community is a rare thing these days. Our lives are increasingly busy and full, especially if we’re managing the responsibilities of owning and maintaining a home. Getting to know the people next door can feel like the least important thing on the list. Even though many of us long for deeper bonds, half of us don’t even know our neighbors by name!
But getting to know your neighbors can actually be good for your health. This first came to light back in 1961, when a Roseto, PA, doctor noticed that his Italian-American village had almost no heart attacks. This despite their love for cigars and copious amounts of wine and sausage. Researchers found the magic ingredient: community. A newer study shows the same thing. People who live in close-knit neighborhoods are almost 70 percent less likely to have a heart attack.
Outdoor events and activities can really bring people together, so here are three ways to take advantage of the warm summer weather and start turning neighbors into friends. Before you know it, you’ll be swapping spare keys, babysitting each other’s dogs, and sharing excess tomatoes.
1. Join forces for a mega yard sale
Yard sale, garage sale, tag sale, rummage sale … Whatever you call it in your part of the country, joining forces is a plus. Besides building community, multifamily sales draw more buyers, so you have a better chance of selling your stuff.
Some neighborhoods base the sale at one home, merging and carefully labelling all their stuff. Others run separate sales all up and down the street. Either way gives you a critical mass that’s magnetic to bargain hunters.
Curbly has tips (“Rock the fanny pack”) and printables for a merged multi-family sale. And YardSaleQueen.com lives up to the name with extensive general advice — get ready to scroll and learn! Here’s one good tip: “Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.” On a hot day, cold sodas for sale, or even free ice water, will encourage people to congregate, linger … and buy.
2. Throw a classic block party
There’s nothing like a big, memorable event to pull a neighborhood together. If you can turn it into an annual thing that everyone looks forward to, even better. But how do you pull off something like that?
Here’s a good 10-step guide from Denver Dweller, complete with links to online tools that will help you get organized, send out invites, and spread the work around. Kid activities are key. If you want to hold the party in the street, classic block-party style, check with your town or city ASAP on what you need to do to secure a special permit. Some cities require a petition signed by 50 percent of the block, for example.
This project doesn’t have to be daunting. As Denver Dweller points out, perfect planning is not required. Your party will be a success community-wise if it engages your neighbors, both during the planning and on the actual day.
3. Grow food together
A lot of people are getting into growing at least a little of their own food lately, and there are all kinds of ways to do it together. Maybe you have the green thumb, but your neighbor’s yard has the sun … Lack of sunlight is a common problem in cities and suburbs, given how close together homes usually are. So why not share? There are lots of great reasons to share yard space. Here’s some advice on yard sharing, and a sample sharing agreement.
If that’s too much togetherness for you at this point, have you thought of gardening in the front yard instead of weeding and digging alone out back? When several neighbors start doing it, it’s a great way to build in more friendly encounters while still being in charge of your own garden space. As they say at Food Not Lawns, which promotes turning lawns into gardens for community reasons as much as food reasons, “Free your lawn, the rest will follow!”
Just remember that along with the extra benefits of front-yard gardening comes some extra responsibility. Since everyone will have to look at your garden, including nongardeners who don’t share your love of composting, you need to think more about aesthetics and stay on top of weeding etc.
If you’re in a really dense area and none of you have much gardening space, you can look into starting a true community garden. Check out the American Community Gardening Association’s 10 steps for getting started.
Read next: The right tree for your yard. Trees are somewhat shared in the sense that their size, type, and location can affect your neighbors. So before planting a new one, check out which ones are right (and wrong) for your yard, and maybe have a chat with your neighbors.
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Originally published July 2017, updated May 2018.
Filed Under: For Homeowners