How To Be a (Responsible) Snoop

Well-Designed Travel

I come from a long line of snoops. When I was a kid, my grandmother would always entertain me with the outrageous stories of the comings and goings of everyone on her block. These days, when I visit my parents, I always get the update on which kids are making mischief, who's broken up and who's just moved in. I even have an aunt in a rural area whose nightly activities include binoculars and a porch swing. (Be careful central Ohio, you're being watched!)

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Snooping (within reason of course) is a totally healthy and natural part of the human existence. It's the original reality show, and helps keep our neighborhoods safe by keeping eyes on the street. Knowing who our neighbors are and what they're up to is a natural part of living in a community. In fact, what originally drew me to Apartment Therapy was the ability to see into other people's homes without leaving my own sofa. House Tours are a snoop's dream!

Now that I'm living abroad, snooping has started to fill a new purpose in my life. I'm learning a new language and new customs. Keeping a watchful eye on my neighbors is helping me to gain a little insight into local life and customs, and to not feel so disconnected from the world around me.

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Here are a few tips to stealthily know what's going on in your neck of the woods:

  1. Don't do anything creepy. A good snoop never invades privacy, but pays attention to their surroundings enough to catch a glimpse of the daily lives of their neighbors.
  2. Hang out in outdoor spaces when weather allows. (And bundle up when it doesn't!) Try not to be cooped up, sip coffee on the balcony or read the news on the back porch. You can not only see what's going on, but hear it too.
  3. Snooping should be a secondary activity that occurs in the back of your brain. Always have another activity happening like reading, eating or cleaning. Don't make it your primary goal, but just keep an ear to the ground.
  4. Get to know your neighbors. This may seem like a simple step, but lots of people skip right past this. My grandmother knew the names not only of the people who lived on her block, but also the names of their children, grandchildren, cousins, dogs, birds, fish... you name it! Not only will you know your neighbors, they'll know you, which is a great way to build a sense of community and safety.
  5. Understand that your neighbors snoop on you, too! Any loud noises you make, weird outfits you wear, strange visitors you have or large, interesting purchases you make will go noticed by someone. Play it up or play it down — but someone's going to notice!

(Images: Smith Schwartz)

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