It’s been 50 years since Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood first aired and he asked, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” Except we typically don’t choose our neighbors. Nonetheless, a lifelong friend in your neighborhood may be waiting to meet you and get to know you.
Families don’t go outside in the front yard as often as they did in the past. They’re busier than ever and spend more time indoors. For some, the only time they may get out is to check the mail. It leaves few opportunities to see a neighbor and chat with them.
Here are three neighbor icebreakers to help new homeowners get to know their neighbors.
- Use Online Resources to Connect the Neighborhood
Many neighborhoods set up closed groups on Facebook or NextDoor. Some have a website. Some create a mailing list that announces neighborhood events, homeowner’s association (HOA) meetings, and neighborhood concerns.
In one neighborhood, a neighbor spotted a bobcat and posted a heads up in the Facebook group. Other neighbors chimed in with suggestions for dealing with a bobcat. (Make a lot of noise to send them fleeing.)
Having trouble establishing a quorum in your HOA meetings? An HOA president posted a note online asking if neighbors who couldn’t attend the meeting if they would sign a proxy form. They made quorum.
- Establish a Social Committee
Neighborhood parties and gatherings are a great way to get to know your neighbors. Having a social committee is a formal way to make sure someone is planning something. Otherwise, everyone hopes someone will start something and nothing happens.
Some cities have resources for neighborhoods. For example, Plano has a pop-up party trailer for neighborhood block parties. It includes tables, chairs, water coolers, extension cords. Just about everything you need to have a successful block party minus the food.
One neighborhood has a progressive dinner every year. It’s a round robin potluck where each home serves a course. So two homes serve hors d’oeuvres, two serve appetizers, two serve the first course, two serve the main course with side dishes, and two serve dessert. The neighbors move from home to home. Some dinners have a theme to make things interesting.
- Distribute a Neighborhood Directory
If you have an HOA, one way to compel people to pay the HOA fees is to give them a neighborhood directory when they pay. It can be a file you send, a printed edition, or both. Some neighborhoods add a list of babysitters with names of neighbor kids who are old enough.
A good directory sorts the entries two ways: alphabetically and by street. So if you don’t know that neighbor’s name who lives two doors down, you can look it up by their address.
Another item to include are pets, their names, and breeds. That way if a pet ever gets lost, a neighbor can check the directory to see if it belongs to someone in the neighborhood. The directory may also have names and ages of children as a way to help families connect.
We may not be able to pick our neighbors, but you have a lot of choices and are bound to find two or three you like. Start small. Go ring the bell, introduce yourself, and get to know your neighbors. Better yet, bring a treat.