We all know how much this Covid period is sucking hard right now! We all feel isolated and it’s likely and understandably taken a toll on our mental health and well-being.
Here in my small Ontario, Canada town we’re allowed to socialize in groups of up to 10 people which has been great. We have a group of neighbours in our area that have become so much more than neighbours over the years and are truly some of our closest friends. Having a little community within our neighbourhood is something we always said we’d wanted when we moved in almost 4 years ago and we love it!
Do you want to live in the type of neighbourhood where kids play together in front yards and adults hang out on front porches (socially distanced obviously)? You can have that, but you might need to take steps to create it. Here are some ideas to build community in your neighbourhood…
There are days when Tyson and I will take our dog outside for a stroll down the block, and end up at an impromptu neighbourhood gathering on the sidewalk. Kids and dogs running around playing as the adults chat and catch up. Sometimes someone even says, “Hang on,” and runs inside to grab beers for all of us. I love this. It’s one of my favourite things about where we live. It’s the sort of thing you just can’t plan. But if you keep showing up and reaching out to your neighbours, this sense of community in your neighbourhood just happens organically.
Neighbourhood sense of community has been shown to be linked to so many positives: creating sense of belonging, providing a physical and mental health boost, and even lowering crime rates. With benefits like these, we could all stand to strengthen our neighbourhood ties.
Get to know your neighbours. If you can’t name more than a neighbour or two, it’s time to introduce yourself. Even if you’ve lived in your home for a while, this first introduction doesn’t need to be awkward or a big production. Simply smile and say, “Hey, I’ve been meaning to introduce myself…”
Hang out on your porch or in your front yard. It’s hard to get to know your neighbours if you don’t ever see them. Just by being out in front of your house you can give off a welcoming vibe that encourages interaction. If we’re out in front, especially with the dog, every neighbour who walks by, even those I don’t know who may live many blocks away, still smiles and says hello before giving Winston a pat and carrying on with their walk.
Create a block directory. If you don’t yet know your neighbours, this is the perfect way to get started. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Just drop off a sign-up sheet in everyone’s mailbox and, once they return it to you, you can email the final version to everyone.
Be respectful of your neighbours. I can’t stress this one enough!! Don’t be that guy. Clean up after your dog and keep him leashed when out walking. Be aware of any disturbing noise levels that you are creating. Maintain your property and respect property boundaries. If you are that house that is continuously pumping heavy bass and loud music, you’re immediately on my shit list – be respectful!
Organize a block party. I know this might be difficult right now with Covid restrictions but you could maybe have a Drinks On Your Driveway Night. This one does involve a little work, but if you share the coordinating duties with other neighbours and keep it simple (at least that first year), this is an easy way to get to know your neighbours.
Welcome new families. You can bring a traditional baked good, but I also love the idea of welcoming newcomers by sharing your favourite local restaurants and businesses, perhaps a stack of your favourite take-out menus wrapped up in ribbon.
Celebrate NeighbourDay in April. Since 2010 Good Magazine has sponsored NeighbourDay the last Saturday of April, by providing tools and suggestions to encourage good neighbouring. You can check the website to get neighbourly inspiration from all over the globe. I didn’t know this was a thing until right now but you know next year I’ll be all over this!
Shovel your neighbour’s sidewalk when it snows, especially if it is difficult for them. If you neighbours are older or perhaps just going through a hard time with a new baby or sickness, spend a few extra minutes to clear their sidewalk too. This is no small gesture. In most cities, homeowners can actually be ticketed if their sidewalks aren’t cleared within 24 hours after it snows, even if they are out of town. Plus, you never know who will return the favour.
Support your neighbourhood schools. There is a reason the most successful schools are the ones where parents are actively engaged. Good schools have successful, if informal, partnerships between the administration, the parents and the community-at-large. Even if you don’t have kids at the school, it’s important to remember that the local school is also a member of the community, and can greatly impact the neighbourhood, positively or negatively. Our neighbourhood businesses frequently host fundraisers to benefit the local schools. If you can attend an event, you’re helping the school as well as getting to know your neighbours at a fun community event.
Address concerns or issues directly with your neighbour. Don’t let a problem fester and escalate. And, don’t immediately call to report a problem to the city or town without first trying to work it out with your neighbour directly.
Host a porch or driveway party. This is something we get up to pretty often in our neighbourhood. A good old fashion driveway hang out! Everyone brings a folding chair and a couple drinks to someones driveway and we just hang out. We often have new faces walk by and it’s a great way to introduce and welcome others to your little circle.
Shop locally if you live near a business district. You will not only see and interact with your neighbours at the local businesses and along the way, but you will also get to know your other neighbours—the local business owners and employees.
Coordinate a neighbourhood yard sale. Garage sale, tag sale, yard sale…whatever name you go by, this is a good way to clear out your home’s clutter and help your neighbours do the same.
Let your neighbours know when you will be out of town and ask them to contact you or the police if anything is suspicious. You don’t need a formalized neighbourhood watch program to keep the neighbourhood safe. If you ask your neighbours, they will likely ask you in turn, which helps to keep the neighbourhood safe for everyone.
Welcome new little ones to the neighbourhood. When I was growing up, every time one of the families had a new baby, the neighbours would decorate the families’ front porch with pink or blue ribbons. It was a small gesture, but a way of simultaneously announcing to everyone the baby’s birth and welcoming the baby into our community.
Share small neighbourhood gifts at holiday times. It’s rare that anyone gets anything fun in the mail these days. Why not surprise your neighbour with a holiday treat? Keep it simple…baked goods, seasoned popcorn, or even a bottle of wine will be welcomed by most.
Drive like your kids live here…because they do! I have become one of those people who yells, “slow down!” whenever a car speeds down our street, which means I’ve become my parents. But, I get it now. We all like to live in vibrant, bustling neighbourhoods, but this means people, especially kids, need to feel safe when walking or biking around.
What is it like in your neighbourhood? Do you have any good stories about neighbours that became friends? I’d love to hear your suggestions and what it’s like where you live!
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