Being a good neighbor is a balancing act between being the recluse with the nuisance yard who avoids everybody and the overbearing busybody who everybody avoids. In pop culture terms, you don't want to be the Klopeks from "The Burbs," and you don't want to be Nathan from "Extract."
So in the interest of neighborly relations, we offer 10 good neighbor rules with the Goldilocks approach to being a "just right" summertime neighbor.
1. Get to know the neighbors
Too much: Don't harass your neighbors, pry into the intimate details of their private lives or bore them with every detail of yours. They also don't need to see your dirty laundry (and we aren't talking about outdoor clotheslines, which we fully support), so keep family disputes respectful and take them inside.
Too little: Most of us fear the unknown, so Mr. Rogers was just the scary guy in the cardigan until he introduced himself to the neighbors.
Just right: Introduce yourself to the people on your block and anyone else with whom you share a property line. Give them your phone number so they know they can call you if they have a problem with noise, etc. Get to know a little about their schedule and lifestyle so you can be considerate of their working hours, baby naps, etc. Also, a pie or some cookies never hurt.
2. Maintain the yard
Too much: Don't mow the neighbor's lawn without asking, even if you think you are doing them a favor. It may come across as passive-aggressive. Also don't let your lush, elaborate garden spill over the fence. Neighbors may not appreciate the same aesthetics. Minimize the spread of falling leaves and growing shoots onto adjacent properties.
Too little: If the neighbors are mowing your lawn or pulling your weeds, it may be a sign that your yard isn't meeting the bare minimum. An overgrown, unkempt yard can lower property values, anger the neighbors and attract dangerous vermin.
Just right: No reasonable person (at least nobody outside a covenant-controlled HOA) expects every yard to be worthy of a magazine cover, but during the summer, your neighbors rightly expect you to mow regularly and do your part to minimize weeds. Also offer to water neighbors' plants while they are away. Hopefully they will reciprocate the offer.
3. Respect a power tool curfew
Too much: Sometimes too much courtesy can be a curse. "I didn't want to make any noise" is no excuse for not mending a broken fence.
Too little: On the other hand, insomnia is no excuse for sawing fence lumber at 2 a.m.
Just right: Try to limit the use of chainsaws, leaf blowers and other noisy tools to one hour at a time between about 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., and make some effort to accommodate napping children and daysleepers.
4. Control your pets
Too much: It's cruel and unnecessary to debark your dog and leave it in a kennel all day.
Too little: It's also cruel and dangerous to let the dog roam the neighborhood at all hours (not to mention inviting a lawsuit or worse if the dog bites a neighbor).
Just right: Let Fido get some fresh air during the summer in a securely fenced yard. Also invest in some obedience training so he doesn't just bark all day while you are at work.
5. Let kids be (good) kids
Too much: Again, the neighbors will start to worry if they never see or hear your children.
Too little: On the other hand, don't take the African proverb too literally. It may take a village to raise a child, but your "village" didn't sign up to feed and babysit your kids every day.
Just right: Let the kids play outside during daylight hours and introduce them to the neighbors, both for courtesy and safety. Don't let them play in neighbors' yards without permission, and teach them that yelling is generally inappropriate and unnecessary.
6. Don't smoke out the neighbors
Too much: It may be inappropriate (not to mention a code violation) to run a barbecue pit and sell ribs on the patio all day every day.
Too little: Don't be so leery of drifting smoke that you become rude. If the neighbors include you in a weekly barbecue, try to reciprocate.
Just right: Talk to the neighbors and pay attention to the prevailing winds before lighting a bonfire or starting a backyard cigar-of-the-month club.
7. Turn down the music
Too much: Don't try to keep the house so quiet that summer's ambient noise drives you crazy.
Too little: You might have great taste in music, but your neighbors don't need to experience a summer-long music festival.
Just right: Try to keep your tunes from drifting beyond your property lines. Go out to the street and check if you can hear the stereo or garage band. If you are hosting a party, invite your neighbors (or at least warn them and give them your phone number to complain about noise). Most municipalities have noise ordinances that prohibit noise that disrupts the safety and comfort of others, but the specific limits vary based on hour, location, type of noise and other circumstances. It's best to follow the golden rule and keep noise from disturbing neighbors.
8. Be a considerate driver
Too much: Don't creep through the neighborhood at five miles per hour. You'll look like a stalker.
Too little: Don't speed through neighborhood streets or ignore stop signs, even if you know there are never cops in the neighborhood. More kids, pets and pedestrians are out in the summer, and it's all too easy to slip into autopilot mode in your own neighborhood and forget to watch for these hazards.
Just right: Know and respect the speed limit, and always check the driveway, sidewalk and street carefully before pulling a vehicle out of the driveway.
9. Be a considerate parker
Too much: Don't get too protective of the space in front of your house. Cut the neighbors some slack once in a while if they are moving or have visitors who park at your curb for a day or two.
Too little: Don't just pull into the biggest or most convenient spot, or make the neighbors do automotive acrobatics to get out of their driveway.
Just right: Make a U-turn or block in your other vehicle if you must in a good-faith effort to park in front of your house or on your property.
10. Take out the trash
Too much: Don't go overboard minimizing your trash either. If you are composting, make sure you know what you are doing, and keep the compost bin from stinking up the 'hood.
Too little: Don't take out the trash two days early "just in case you forget." And don't leave out the trash if it doesn't get picked up for some reason.
Just right: Take out the trash the morning of your trash pickup if possible, to avoid attracting bugs and vermin.