Shared Spaces: Five Rules for Happy Neighbors

Shared Spaces: Five Rules for Happy Neighbors

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Jennifer Hunter
Nov 16, 2011

I'm having a weird, passive-aggressive (and possibly imaginary) fight with a mystery opponent. It involves the communal basement storage space in my apartment building and a certain bookcase owner who believes his or her bookcase should be stored in a spot that makes it difficult to access my bike. Every time I carefully move said bookcase behind the "bike area," it mysteriously returns to the front!

It's turned into a battle of wills ... pointless, stupid wills. I have yet to do anything drastic, but it got me thinking about the rules of etiquette for the spaces we share with our neighbors. Here are five to keep in mind.

1. Clean up after yourself — Just like my Girl Scout troop leader would make us leave our camping spot cleaner than we found it, it's the right thing to do and a great habit to get into. Of course, this goes double for any kids or pets you're in charge of.

2. Don't monopolize — You've been putting off laundry day for a month and now you have six loads to do. If someone else arrives with one, it's nice to squeeze him/her in.

3. Don't jump to conclusions — Maybe your neighbors on the patio don't realize how loud they're being, or maybe they do. Either way, yelling at them is just adding to the noise. Give them the benefit of the doubt and try the polite way first.

4. Don't put everyone at risk — If you don't have a doorman, the front door is the best defense against stranger danger. When you prop open the door or buzz in anyone who rings, it really ups the chances for problems. You may not love your neighbors, but at least they have a vested interest in keeping the building intact; the strangers walking by, they don't.

5. Hold the door, the elevator ... and smile — Little gestures go a long way in setting the tone for a building. I'll never forget the day I was coming home in a downpour, my paper bag of groceries quickly melting away, when a neighbor spotted me and braved the rain to help me inside. A small thing can spark a spiral of positive interactions that benefit everyone, including you!

Essentially, all this boils down to another Girl Scout mantra, the Golden Rule: Treat others as you'd want to be treated. Or the less Girl Scout approved way to say it: Karma's a bitch!

Image: Shutterstock

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