I recently moved to Cedar Park, Texas. Houses in my neighborhood are surrounded with white picket fences, assuring neighbors know where home boundaries are. But I have a history as a rabble-rouser who gets neighbors to connect through a variety of activities. So why bother?
- Neighbors that know one another can identify allies
- Close support is immediate support in case of emergencies
- New friends
- People are willing to share resources with those that they know, saving both money
- Being on a first-name basis with neighbors at least a few houses out is generally just smart
- Fun is fun
On the surface, many Texas neighborhoods seem like they are an area of people living together in general harmony, with accepted social norms and mores. The reality is, even with tools like NextDoor, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and additional communications technologies, many neighbors simply STILL do not know one another. By using these networks to coordinate real-world activities, your neighborhood can prosper. And there are a TON of ideas to build community at the hyper-local street level. Do you have kids? Even more options come into play!
1) Get Your "Brave" On
Time to stretch, take a deep breath, and work up your courage. This is the most important of all the actions you can act on because it directly impacts the results of any other actions below. If you have self-doubt about your neighbors caring enough to attend any events, have a shyness about knocking on doors, or just generally have a fear / anxiety from getting out of your comfort zone, then you may have difficulty meeting your neighbors more than two doors down. I suggest adopting an attitude of "let's see what can be achieved" and remove any feelings of failure.
Another suggestion is to not go it alone. Find at least one neighbor who also thinks it's time to build up local community at the street-level and have them join you for a door-to-door campaign for invitations to whatever event type you decide to create. Here are suggestions:
2) The Classic Block Party
You know what's awesome? Buying a home in Austin, San Antonio, or Houston because there are so many wonderful people in Texas. Texans don't usually need instructions on how to tailgate or party, though you would be surprised how shy neighbors are when it comes to organizing an actual block party. It's not as easy as just rolling a grill out into the street. Welcome to Permission-Slip Partying.
Generally, cities view block parties that shut down any roadways or traffic as "Special Events" that require a permit, usually with a fee. It depends city-by-city, and if you are willing to cover the cost or have neighbors willing to pitch in, the application process is usually straight-forward. Also, keep in mind that plenty of lead time is needed for block parties.
Once you have decided a block party is the way to go, then it's time to decide what makes sense. The following ideas consider kids will be in attendance.
3) Backyard Movie Night
One of your neighbors probably has a projector, and someone has a DVD player. I'm willing to bet someone also has an extra sheet and some rope and clips to rig it as a movie screen. Add in popcorn and lawn chairs, and you have the makings for an awesome night. Make sure your speaker system is loud enough to make it thrilling for everyone, and if other neighbors walk by, it's a great chance to say hello and let them know they are invited to the next one.
4) Neighborhood Yard Sale
Time to make some extra money while decluttering! Locate a house with a large driveway or even a couple houses back-to-back if one is not enough. This will take coordination with participants, and the neighbors "working" the sale should be compensated some way with a percentage if they are handling transactions for others. Make sure that everyone has an exact inventory of items they have included for sale, and that they understand there is some risk if a person makes off with their items or something breaks. Just make sure items for sale are not heart-breaking in the event reality happens.
5) Game Night
When was the last time you went head-to-head with someone in a friendly battle of Connect Four or checkers? They don't have to be complicated games, just stick to simple rules everyone already knows or can learn in minutes. Bean bag toss (Cornhole) is always a party favorite in Texas, and a virtual reality headset is fun, especially if your neighbors have never tried one.
What is a "Promotional Item" you can bring to your neighbors? A few beers? Bottle of wine? Brand new Lamborghini?
It never hurts to just be old-fashioned friendly the first time meeting someone who is a neighbor. And there's nothing wrong and just about everything right with showing up with a batch of cookies, even if your neighbors turn out to be gluten-free or something awkward like that. It's the thought that counts.
7) Set Up A Free Library
Free libraries are growing in number across the state. The fun part is not only adding in books to trade with neighbors, but the actual construction of the library itself! If you aren't handy with power tools, perhaps one of your neighbors is and it can be a project for more than just you. Just make sure that you have permission to place the free library on land that complies with city zoning and ordinance laws.
8) Housewarming Party
If you are new to the neighborhood, then opening up your home is a sure-fire way to offer an inviting way to get to know your neighbors. Allowing others to see who you are and what you are about goes a long way toward building trust, and that's the most important feeling you can strive for in establishing your family as a new group among the community.
9) Front Porch Contest
This one is fun for the more shy among us. After work, sit on your front porch and hold a contest with other family members to see who can greet the most people walking by. Challenge each other to see who can be more outgoing. It's even more fun if you also play the "Guess What They Do for a Living" game. If you can guess your neighbor's career, you get double points!
10) After-work Happy Hour
Booze. It's been bringing Americans together since the birth of our nation. Any of those in the workforce can appreciate a happy-hour drink before getting home to tackle supper, dishes, bills, and the lawn. Expect people to come and go at a variety of times during the week, and use the opportunity to build rapport and work toward future events together.
And that's it! Being neighborly is certainly not limited to this list! With your own creativity and drive, meeting more neighbors can make your Texas life that much better.
If you are seeking a new home in Austin, San Antonio, or Houston, The Agency Texas realtors specialize in both buying and selling in neighborhoods that align with your lifestyle. We can recommend locations and homes based on the best updated home inventories, schools, restaurants, and any features that match your needs and desires.