One of the most important aspects of simple or self-sufficient living is community. The belief that self-sufficient means we’re meant to ‘do it all alone’ is misguided. Humans have never been loners – we’ve always had the tribe or the community.
Community starts at your front door with the people you live closest with: your neighbours.
(Or really it starts with you and how you interact with your neighbours).
Once upon a time we all knew and interacted with our neighbours. A chat over the fence. A cup of tea. Someone to pass you a cup of sugar if you ran out.
Nowadays, most of us are lucky if we know what our neighbours look like.
We build higher fences made from brick and cement and install electric gates.
Despite modern communication devices, we have never been so isolated from our community and from the people who live around us. They say that ‘no man is an island’ but I wonder if we have built ourselves our own little islands inside our large and fancy homes and high fences, yet all the while desperately trying to ‘connect’ through the internet.
Sure, there are always neighbours you’d rather not know. And sometimes fences can’t be high enough (or sound-proof enough) to make the bad neighbours good.
We’re fortunate that we are surrounded by good neighbours at the moment. Living in a townhouse, we live very close to other families. With paper thin wall, having good neighbours makes all the difference.
If community is integral to simple living, then the first step to building community is to get to know your neighbours. Stop and say hello. Shake hands and introduce yourself.
Be the neighbour you want to live next to. Be the good neighbour.
Sometimes the ‘bad’ neighbours turn out to be not so bad once you get to know them.
“G’day, my name is Melissa, nice to meet you.”
why it’s important to know your neighbours
NEIGHBOURS LOOK OUT FOR EACH OTHER
Because neighbours live near, they notice stuff. It’s not nosey, it’s just the reality of living close together.
Neighbours get to know your usual habits, and they notice when things aren’t right, particularly if you know your neighbours.
They notice if you’re away, if there’s strangers at your house, if you’re sick, if you haven’t been around for a while.
Your neighbours are like having extra security. They’re an extra pair of eyes for keeping watch for things that are suss around the neighbourhood.
You can let your neighbours know when you’re going on holiday, ask them to keep an eye on the place, water your garden or check your mail.
One of our neighbours has been sick lately. The family next door to her have been keeping her supplied with soup and fruit. That’s neighbour’s looking out for each other.
NEIGHBOURS ARE YOUR FIRST POINT OF CALL IN AN EMERGENCY
Long before the ambulance, police or ses arrive, your neighbours are there to help because they’re already on the scene.
It your neighbours who will be there for you in a crisis and who will turn to you in their time of need, just because of proximity.
Need advice or a second opinion? Your neighbours can be your best source of help.
NEIGHBOURS – YOUR CLOSEST FRIENDLY CONTACT
When we’re so busy, it can be hard to organise social dates. Neighbours, on the other hand, are there to say hello to over the fence. It’s easy to pop next door for a quick cup of tea.
Or just have a chat in the driveway or on the nature strip.
A hello and a comment about the weather can make all the difference if you’re feeling down and lonely.
And if your neighbours have kids the same age as yours, even better. No need to organise ‘play dates’ – the kids can play together in the yard.
NEIGHBOURS CAN POOL RESOURCES
“Do you have a ____ I can borrow?” “Would you like some zucchinis? I have an abundance.” “I’m popping into the shop, can I pick anything up for you?”
Sharing is a bit old fashioned these days. It’s more a case of ‘if the neighbours have it, I want one too.’ But it’s cheaper all round if we share resources, barter, swap, and help each other out. Like an old fashioned Amish barn raising or a working bee – everyone pitches in to help out rather than it being every man for himself.
Have you seen the Mama Bake website? It’s an awesome Australian website that helps people big batch cook in groups and swap meals. If you cook with two other friends then you make one large meal and go home with three different meals. This idea is even easier to do with those who live closest to you.
When you build positive relationships with your neighbours (even the ‘bad’ ones) then you gain not only friendship and opportunities for socialising and fun, but mutual support and encouragement.
You have people around you to lend a helping hand in times of need, and likewise you are there for them.
You have contact with a wide variety of expertise, people who can offer advice when you need it, people who have been there, done that and can guide you with experience. Or be just an extra set of eyes looking out for you.
Community is important for simple living and community starts with your neighbours. Building good neighbourhoods starts with you being a good neighbour first.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.