Love They Neighbor . . . and Their Stuff

by Katy on November 13, 2011 · 25 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy! 

Neighbors chat over the clothesline.

 I love my neighbors.

We’ve been in the same house for 12 years, and we’ve gone through some real doozies.

First, there was the next-door neighbor who ran an illegal scrap metal business from his yard. He would haul home huge hunks of metal machinery, bang it apart, let it sit for six months or so, and then cart it off to the metal recycler. It was ugly, loud and not exactly the most attractive vista from the south side of the house. Feng Shui it wasn’t.

Then, there was the nice elderly couple whose son came home from prison to set up his own drug merchandising business from the house. (Like a lemonade stand, but with meth.)

Mind you, I live in a very nice and respectable neighborhood, and this stuff was completely out of the ordinary.

So when I say I love my current neighbors, I mean I really love my current neighbors.

The scrap metal people were replaced by a retired California couple whose feet I would kiss daily if they did not think it to be weird.

A minister and her lovely, polite teenagers moved into the drug dealer’s house.

I must have done something very special in a past life.

I have established terrific mutually moochy relationships with the current neighbors. We watch each other’s cats when out of town, share lawnmowers, power tools, wheelbarrows and such. When I’m missing a last minute dinner ingredient, I shop not from the grocer’s, but door-to-door.

“Do you have cinnamon/baking soda/an egg/extra dining room chair I can borrow?”

I often read generalizations in the media about how people these days don’t know their own neighbors, and I wonder where this data is being pulled from. Certainly not my Portland neighborhood.

My brother-in-law was telling me over the phone today that he had to dash out to quickly buy a garment bag for his immanent Alaskan cruise.

“Why don’t you just ask if a neighbor has one you can borrow?

I think I actually heard the click of a lightbulb turning on, as this suggestion sunk in.

Sure enough, one of his neighbors was more than happy to send their garment bag on an adventure.

Problem solved.

Without anything needing to be purchased, without an errand to run.

Should you befriend your neighbors just so you can mooch off them?

Probably not.

But the people on my street benefit almost daily from our close relationships. I am happy, happy, happy to share the wealth of our belongings, and know the neighbors return the sentiment.

And the lemonade stands now sell only actual lemonade.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Lily November 13, 2011 at 10:35 am

That’s really lovely!
“Italians are friendly”, they say. Well, my neighbours are mostly unfriendly. 🙁 The only kind ones are 2 young couples – all the others barely reply to my greetings. An old lady doesn’t reply at all, just stares at me. I don’t get it, since she does talk to the others.


Linda in Indiana November 13, 2011 at 10:53 am

We have the BEST neighbors! They keep an eye out to protect us and our neighborhood and we strive to do the same for them. If there is a death of a loved one, they are right there with food and comfort. We share produce, stuff, filling in when someone is gone. A lot of the time, they are all offering things to us before we ever even know we need it. Plus, their friendships are priceless to us.


Liza November 13, 2011 at 11:16 am

We recently moved back to our Whidbey Island house (we were unable to sell it as our 2007 move back to our “hometown” of Portland coincided with the housing collapse) and are so very happy! Especially because, while we have always had cordial neighbors, we have NEVER had neighbors quite like these! First of all it is important to note that our “behind us” neighbors kept a watch on our house when it was both on the market and when it was rented out. I mean watched out for it, and MOWED the entire yard for four years in our absense. Last week, when my car broke down, those same neighbors dropped everything midday to come pick me up on the side of the road and bring me home. Right now, he and my husband are working on my broken car. His lovely to gab with wife, when not working her fulltime job, bakes an extra loaf of bread and just brings it over. Our other “behind us” neighbors feel like our sons stand-in grandparents! Their grandchildren are miles away, as are our sons grandparents. They are on the list to pick our son up off of the bus just in case anything holds us up/makes us late. And the “gpa” loves to come over and help our son perfect his golf swing whenever he’s in the yard. It feels like we have a family just the three houses! And this is really important to me beacuse we just left Portland, OR again (where almost all of my family/good friends are) and I really appreciate the connection to these people! I live in a rural area, where many people who own do not live on the island-but have 2nd houses here. So there are few neighbors unless you walk a bit…


Katy November 13, 2011 at 11:20 am

Sounds like you were able to transform a less than ideal situation into something great.



Mary Stubblefield November 13, 2011 at 11:41 am

Perfectly said – just within the past hour my neighbor came by to borrow our hand mixer since hers broke mid baking…and we were happy to lend her ours. Neighbors definitely help make life easier, or they can make it harder. Thanks for sharing!


Indigo November 13, 2011 at 11:52 am

I’d like it if I was closer to my neighbors but I am new to the neighborhood and the lone bachelor in a neighborhood of young families and retired couples.

A few of them at least will reply when I wave and say hello while walking the dogs now. I do chat with the couple right next door when they’re out doing yard work. I guess jut give it time.


Samantha November 13, 2011 at 12:44 pm

My neighbours are pure evil incarnate….. how I wish I loved my neighbours! We are going to rent out our house just so we can move away from them.


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land November 13, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Sometimes, borrowing something from a neighbor can start a friendship, so just go ask!

My sister last summer asked us to water her two tomato plants on the back deck when they’d be gone for a week or two. What? Drive 5 miles to water your tomato plants? Uh, no, not when you have neighbors. It ended up she asked someone, and they were happy to do it for the free tomatoes. I really don’t think it pays to be shy.


Megyn @Minimalist Mommi November 13, 2011 at 1:23 pm

We moved into our house a little over a year ago. We don’t know any of our neighbors other than waving and saying hi. We are the young family, while the rest on our street are renters, child-less, or have young adults/teens. My in-laws are the closest neighbors we know…and they live a 5 minute walk away. Thankfully, we just borrow items from them, but it would definitely be nice to actually get to know our neighbors (something not too common in our neck of the woods).


Prractical Parsimony November 13, 2011 at 4:12 pm

I live in the only residential Historic District in the town. There are four houses on this end of the block. I am the only owner. I share fences with all the other three. Lets see–
*house behind me: house behind me always has people with monster dogs that bark and have monster poo that breeds monster flies. Oh, there was the guy there who climbed the fence and brought a pint of liquor to share with me!
*house next door: lived in by 18-yr-old gdaughter of elderly woman who was institutionalized with Alzheimers. Also, her bf and another male friend. The junior college here had no classes on Friday. So, this was Thursday night party house. Think frat house. Kegs of beer, 24 packs, coolers, bags of ice….music revved up so it could be heard three blocks away clearly and further just as noise. I had to attend Auburn grad classes and asked them if they could shut down early or keep the noise down. That made them leave front and back doors open in all sorts of weather, sat during the week on the porch and tossed beer cans in my yard as they made fun of my weight and age. This went on for a year. When police had a talk with them, abuse of me got worse.

Another tenant there accused me of opening the door to their crawl space all the time. Why would I? She tied a dog to bark unattended for days, just tossed food out. Accused me of stealing dog. Entertained a different man every night.

Young couple there–he was abusive and stole her car, made her watch his child, would not let her use the phone. One day, while he was stealing all her possessions, I helped her steal her car back.

I rescued the dog of the guy who lived there after his dog stood three days in the rain with foot tangled in chain after he went round and round a bush.
Garbage was strewn by one person’s dog all over my yard, their own yard, and the street. Ghetto! Oh, I had to go over all the time and ask them to move the car parked in front of my driveway so I could go to work. They took their own sweet time doing it. Finally, my ploy is to sit in the car and sit on the horn.

*catty corner neighbor where I share ten feet of fence: kids threw rocks at my picture windows, another ran a puppy mill and dozen of dogs came running into my yard because it was only a two-foot decorative fence, and antique. Another tenant–so much cursing, so late, so early that man called police to them. Lots of talk about their drugs from this man and woman. Another man who lived there watched me exercise half-naked (peeping tom asked me after he moved if I still did my curls) I wore tank top and panties for that. He had to be at my window, because that is the only way you can see me on the floor.

Neighbors now. Never have seen or spoken to back neighbors. (six foot wooden fence) Catty corner neighbors. Too rough for me. But, the kids don’t throw rocks at my house anymore if they still live there. Neighbor beside me? The first thing he did was to rake his leaves into my yard when he moved here. Weird people who just hate me. Oh, yeah, all the people in that house have always parked right in front of my driveway! So do they and all their delivery trucks.

All the neighbors up and down the block are owners and civilized. But, borrow from them. Would not ask even though guy borrowed the GED book from me to grade tests.

Katy, I know what you mean about neighbors, but I could stand the scrap metal guy and give you the frat house.


Katy November 13, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Oh my God, that sounds awful. I am so sorry.



Prractical Parsimony November 13, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Thanks, Katy. That is only the tip of the iceberg. I thought of other horrors after I posted and will spare you and your readers. Really, it is fodder for a book on bad neighbors.


Prractical Parsimony November 13, 2011 at 4:16 pm

By the way, the two houses behind me are NOT part of the Historic District. I hold down this corner of it.


Carla November 13, 2011 at 6:20 pm

We moved in almost 2 years ago, to a wonderful street! It is a wonderful neighbourhood and we know lots of the neighbours, we have street parties, borrow things from one another, help each other out and parents mind whichever kids are around. Example: Today we took some gravel from one neighbour (he had extra) and gave him a jar of homemade canned salsa. He was talking to another neighbour who one time watched over my baby while I dashed into a store (baby was asleep in the car). That neighbour lives next to another who lent us a Halloween costume and a baby toy for our baby. My husband once helped her husband moving some gravel from the neighbour who had extra gravel (using yet another neighbour’s wheelbarrow). I love it here! I think that one thing that makes a difference is that our street is very narrow, houses have very small frontage, so most of our porches are right next to the sidewalk (I can literally talk to my cross-the-street neighbour from my porch to his porch *without* yelling), and most houses have porches where people hang out. I think that urban planning has a lot to do with how/whether people interact in a neighbourhood. If the space where you live is close you are probably more likely to talk to the people around you.


FrancesVettergreenVisualArtist November 13, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Exactly! I live in an inner-city neighborhood with narrow lots and no front garages. I know my neighbors on both sides of the street for three houses down, and the rest of the street to say hi to. We’re friends enough with the retired couple next door to share cat-feeding duty, and with the young newlyweds on the other side to trust them with building the fence, even though they’re new. Proximity builds civility — or at least life is better that way.

We miss our previous neighbor dreadfully — a good friend, who died suddenly last year — but we can’t hold that against the new people. We bought them a bucket of pansies for their porch when they moved in, as a way to welcome them and start things off on the right foot. I think simply introducing yourself helps. The two 20-something guys who rent the house across the street did that, up and down half the block, and honestly, knowing who they are (and that they mow their lawn and shovel their snow) makes us more tolerant of their occasional loud parties.

I look at some of the suburbs in my city (high backyard fences, streets lined with garage doors) and wonder what the planners were thinking.


Jessica November 13, 2011 at 8:00 pm

I love this article since it is the reason we decided to make the not-so-financially smart decision to stay in our house and add on/renovate to make it what we want, because our neighborhood is so great! The fact that I can count on everyone on my street and on most streets in our neighborhood means that not only do my two young children have a marvelous place to live but I have been able to completely gut my home and have enough gathered tools to put it back together.


Becky November 14, 2011 at 6:02 am

We live on a rural road, with only a 3 houses within a half mile. Our neighbors across the road, the only house we can see from our driveway, are fairly new. They replaced a family whose hobbies were gunning 4-wheeler motors and shooting rifles; so I would love them even if they weren’t nice, friendly people who are doing cool things with their house and land. They are friendly, but when they first moved here I had depression and while I wasn’t unfriendly, I didn’t reciprocate to the level I wish I had. Time to see if I can remedy that!


Jenny November 14, 2011 at 7:43 am

I live in a townhome, so I know most of my immediate neighbors well enough to say “hi” or have a brief conversation. My next door neighbor is about the best neighbor one could ask to share a wall with and she keeps similar hours to us so I don’t have to worry too much about vacuuming after 9:00 pm if the mood strikes. We have had some issues with renters, but those issues seem to have been resolved; at least in my little corner of the neighborhood.


Megan November 14, 2011 at 10:03 am

Agree 100%. We’ve had doozies, but the good ones more than make up for it!

I don’t think you meant it this way, but just want to point out you don’t want to be a true “mooch”. We’ve had those that NEVER return the favors, really should be running to the store instead of my pantry. While I am happy to loan things, give things, lend my husband’s handyman services, etc… It’s nice to have some recognition of thanks/ returning a favor when you can.

Otherwise everyone knows that my pantry is well stocked and


Lindsey November 14, 2011 at 10:56 am

My husband and I both grew up in a small town, so we wanted to be able to meet & be friends with our neighbors. When we first moved to town and rented a townhome, I believe we said ‘hi’ to each of our next door neighbors about once – even though we tried more than that. In the six months that we lived there, no one was friendly. My husband felt awful when he went to check the mail for the last time and met a friendly older lady who was happy to see and talk to a neighbor. That was the first time anyone had approached us first.
When we bought our home, the next door neighbor was already friendly and super happy that someone was moving in. She even was ready to fight for the house for us when the realtor showed up before we did for final inspection — she was relieved when we showed up :). Now, we’re pretty close to several neighbors and most will say ‘hi’ on the street…except the teens next door, even when you say hi as you are walking by, which I’m really confused by. Oh well, there is always that one neighbor…


Nancy Neighbor November 14, 2011 at 2:46 pm

We love you too XXX


Van November 15, 2011 at 7:58 am

I reflected on this in my post today. I meet the people in my neighborhood through yard sales and love the connections. I can’t wait to meet and make connections with more of them.

And the side-affect of it being thrifty? Bliss!


Fenn November 16, 2011 at 9:08 pm

It’s not illegal to pick up scrap and then to recycle it. It’s also not illegal to make loud noises within the city’s allotted hours of the day.


Katy November 16, 2011 at 10:17 pm

It actually was illegal to run a nuisance business from his yard without any permits, and he probably paid no taxes on his income.



Katy November 20, 2011 at 7:26 pm

It is illegal to run a business in your yard in a neighborhood not zoned for businesses.



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