Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Building a Community

It used to be that when people decided to buy a new home their focus would be on just that, the home. They wanted a specific style, a specific number of bedrooms, and a perfect white picket fence to hold it all in. Today's home buyers are a little different, they are willing to give up those little home specifics for location luxuries. An extra bedroom or that white picket fence will be easily let go of for the perfect neighborhood. 

Unfortunately, homes are not always available in the neighborhoods of their dreams, which leads to months of searching and constant disappointment. Now, I'm going to be honest here, you can't turn every neighborhood in the town of Mayfield from Leave it to Beaver, but, with a little effort, you CAN turn any neighborhood into a community. 

Turn off the TV, shut that browser, and go outside! Odds are your neighbors aren't going to come to your door one by one and introduce themselves, so get the ball rolling yourself and get out there. 

Introduce yourself. If you have just moved in to a new home simply knock on your neighbor's doors or peek over the fence and introduce yourself. This may be outside of your comfort zone but in order for a community to form you will need to know one another!

Start a garden. This is a great way to break the ice, even if it's just a little flower bed, it's a reason to be outside. When neighbors walk by wave and say hello. If they have their own gardens ask them for tips or offer them some seeds. Prefer a veggie garden? Share your excess produce with your neighbors, they'll really appreciate it.

Introduce neighbors. Once you strike up conversations with a few neighbors you can begin to get them involved with each other. "Hi Bill, how are you? Oh look, there's Mary, have you two met?"

Shop local. Get to know and support local merchants, odds are they're part of your community.

Look around. Don't walk around with your eyes on your phone, look up and smile at people you pass by. 

Be helpful. Offer to help your elderly neighbor with her groceries, let people know when they leave their car windows open in the rain, return a lost dog to his owner, or offer to mow your neighbors lawn. There is always some way to be helpful.

Make holiday displays interactive. This doesn't mean spending thousands on lights and decorations (unless you're into that, then go for it!). Each Halloween I make tombstones with Styrofoam and spray paint, put silly names on them, and set them up in my yard. Little trick-or-treaters love walking through my yard with their parents reading all the names. My neighbors know me for this little tradition and it cost me about $20 to put together. 

Organize a Block Watch. One of the best reasons to know your neighbors is to keep each other safe. Ever heard stories of homes being robbed in broad daylight while neighbors watched? This generally happens because the neighbors have no idea what they're seeing isn't normal, they think maybe you're moving or selling some furniture. Sounds ridiculous but it happens! Hold monthly meetings to talk to your neighbors and encourage them to let each other know when they'll be out of town.

Movie night. Ask people over to watch a movie once a month (or once a week!) and supply some fun snacks for everyone. If you want to go all out suggest a movie theme and make refreshments that coincide.

Host a BBQ. Make it potluck style and invite your closest neighbors.

Host a block party. This is particularly great if you live on a cul-de-sac. Close down the street and invite everyone on the block. Have some fun games or competitions for the kids. 

Don't gossip. Every community has that one neighbor who knows EVERYONE'S business, don't get involved by repeating what you hear, and of course don't be THAT neighbor ;)

Be respectful and understanding. Keep your yard clean. Turn down your music at night. Keep your pets under control. If a neighbor has a complaint listen to them and try to see it from their perspective, don't start a war. Remember, a community means living together in harmony. 

Host a puppy party. Invite the neighborhood pooches to your place for a wrestle session. 

Bake treats. I had a neighbor move in next door just before the holidays. I had baked an abundance of cookies, so I put some in a tin as a gift and went over to introduce myself. The very nice lady started to cry! Turns out they had just moved here from Russia and she was missing her family, and my small gesture made her feel less alone here.

Join the PTA. Volunteer to help out on field trips for your child's class.  

Listen. When your neighbors talk to you really listen and learn some things about them.

Start a game night. Host a family friendly game night at your home. In the summer host outdoor games on the weekend.

Be the welcome wagon. When new neighbors move in introduce yourself and ask if they need anything. New neighbors often need to know things such as where the nearest grocery or drug store is, and what day garbage pickup is on.

Start a community page online. A simple neighborhood page on social media is a great way to keep everyone connected and up to date on community events. Tell your neighbors about the page and encourage them to suggest events they may want others to know about, such as yard sales. While you could allow others to post themselves, it is suggested a moderator be in charge to keep everything civil.

Invite the girls over for tea (or the guys over for beer). Small social gatherings are always the best way to get to know each other.

Building a community may seem like a daunting task but just making a few small steps towards a more social lifestyle can make a huge difference. Have more suggestions for community building? Leave them in the comments, I'd love to read them!

No comments:

Post a Comment