4 Unspoken Rules to Follow for Sharing an Outdoor Space with Neighbors

published Jun 26, 2022
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Summer is officially here, which means you’re officially ready to spend all your free time in your backyard, deck, or patio, if you’re lucky enough to have your own. But, if you live in an apartment, chances are, you’ll be sharing it with your building’s other occupants. While having any outdoor space is a real estate win, sharing it with others can be a tad trickier to navigate. Sure, you want to enjoy your space all summer long, but you also want to be cognizant of your neighbors’ needs.

Want to keep your summer cool and conflict-free? I tapped August Abbott, PhD., an etiquette expert on JustAnswer to share her biggest do’s and don’ts for sharing an outdoor space with your neighbors. “It’s not as difficult as you might think to be respectful and kind,” Abbott adds. “To be part of starting a whole new ‘thing’ in society and compromising when necessary in order to get along.” All you need to do is follow a few simple rules to have some serious fun in the sun this season.

Do Keep It Inclusive

From afternoon barbecues to chill cocktails, the summer is all about outdoor entertaining. As easy as it is to keep your guest list to your inner circle, use your next soiree as an opportunity to embrace your social butterfly. “If you’re having one, invite the neighbors,” Abbott says. Not only will including your neighbors in the fun start the summer on a friendly note, but it can also keep tensions to a minimum. (Let’s be real, hearing a loud party from your window can cause some serious annoyance and a tinge of resentment.)

Of course, just because you’ve extended an invitation to your neighbors doesn’t mean they’ll attend. “If they don’t participate or if for any reason you don’t care to invite them, give them a notice of what’s happening and give them a time frame,” Abbott shares.”[There’s] no wiggle room here.”

Don’t Help Yourself to Their Belongings

Just because you share an outdoor space with your neighbors doesn’t mean you’re automatically granted access to everything. (Yes, even that pristine gas grill that’s waiting to be used.) “Helping yourself to anything of your neighbors without expressed permission from them is also a faux pas,” Abbot says. “You may as well just use their car, too.” Want to use your neighbor’s grill? Not only is it important to ask, but also consider if there’s something you can give them access to in return. Simply put, your neighbor might be more eager to let you give their grill a spin if they can take a dip in your hot tub.

That said, it’s important to be mindful of your neighbor’s needs by checking in with them before each use and cleaning up later. “The neighbors don’t want to come home to find you’ve left their grill uncleaned — or that you’re in the middle of using it as they approach with the ribs and chicken they were just out buying for their own little picnic,” Abbott adds.

Do Be Mindful Of Noise

Dealing with noisy neighbors is the worst. (Even more terrible? Being the noisy neighbor without even realizing it!) It’s easy to think that taking your summer activity outside would mitigate some of the noise, but in reality? If your neighbor’s unit is right by the backyard, they’ll get a front row seat to all the commotion — whether they want to or not. The good news is that navigating this etiquette rule isn’t as difficult as it may seem.

“Be respectful,” Abbott shares. “Let your neighbor know beforehand and give a time frame that is after a certain time in the morning and stops at a certain time in the afternoon.”

Are you planning on hanging out outside early in the morning or late at night? Turn the volume down on loud conversations, shouting, and music. Want to blast the music while your neighbors are having a quiet conversation on the other end of the backyard? Ask them if it’s okay to play some soft music. When it comes to the noise factor, the golden rule is key.

Don’t Leave Your Mess Everywhere

It doesn’t matter if you have a sprawling backyard or have a fire escape that looks down to your neighbor’s setup, it’s important to clean up all of your messes. (Food scraps? Cigarette butts? Fido’s dropping? Check, check, and check.) As Abbott says, “it should not be their chore to clean up after you.”

To nail this etiquette rule, don’t procrastinate on the chores. Though it’s so easy to tell yourself that you’ll clean up your melamine plates the day after a long dinner party, leaving your dinnerware out and about might make your neighbors feel like they’re responsible for cleaning up your mess. Instead, tidying up as needed will ensure all parties can find some common ground in their common area.