Good neighbors have tended to be something of a perk — a “bonus” you might discover after moving to a new place. But as scores of people venture back into the world after months of shielding themselves from it, it’s become clear that caring for your community is more important than ever — and fundamentally different than before, too.
Knowing just six neighbors can reduce feelings of loneliness, according to a recent study by neighborhood app Nextdoor
. Think of all the things that could happen, then, if you went a step further than introducing yourself.
With that in mind, here are 101 ways you can be a good neighbor this summer, from quick, easy, and free ideas to longer-term neighborhood improvement projects to work on together. And if the idea of socializing after a year of solitude makes your palms sweaty (greetings, fellow introverts!), there are plenty of ideas here for you, too.
Remember Good Neighbor Basics
- Set boundaries as you head back outside, and respect your neighbor’s preferences. If you’re visiting with a neighbor who feels safer wearing masks, be willing to wear one in their home. Decide what types of gatherings feel appropriate for you this summer, and don’t feel guilty if you need to decline an invitation or take a rain check. Everyone’s comfort level may have changed during the pandemic, so be patient.
- Keep your dog on a leash. Aside from being common courtesy (and often the law), it will prevent unexpected close interactions with neighbors who prefer social distance.
- If you see a neighbor’s mail left in a high-traffic area, bring it to their door for them.
- If you have an HOA or neighborhood association, attend the meetings when you can.
- Then, share updates with neighbors who couldn’t attend the latest meeting.
- If you’re moving out, drop off a little card letting neighbors know you’d like to keep in touch and thank them for being in your life.
- Take a CPR class or another type of crisis intervention workshop so you can help a neighbor in an emergency.
- If you know a neighbor’s going out of town, offer to water their plants.
- If you have several neighbors with a common interest, start a club. Baking, knitting, learning a new language — whatever strikes your fancy.
Ask How They’re Really Doing
- Touch base with neighbors who still must quarantine, even if it’s just a hello from your driveway.
- If you haven’t seen a particular neighbor in a while, consider checking in and finding out if you can support them in some way.
- Make eye contact when passing a neighbor on the sidewalk. If they seem open to a quick chat, ask how they’re doing.
- Be willing to listen if your neighbor says they aren’t doing well.
- When asked how you’re doing, don’t just say, “I’m fine,” if you aren’t. Answer genuinely so you can connect with your neighbor in a meaningful way.
- Etiquette expert Chiara Riggs Sill recommends doing some self-care tasks before stepping out. Take a few deep breaths to help you feel calm and centered before socializing, or trade your sweatpants for jeans or a sundress, if you feel up to it.
- Learn your neighbors’ pronouns and the correct pronunciation of their names.
- If there’s a conflict, try to solve it one-on-one with your neighbor before involving your HOA, police, or the neighborhood social media page.
Welcome New Neighbors
- Start a welcoming committee for new neighbors. Offer them a welcome letter with a guide to local businesses, numbers for government and non-profit resources, recommendations for home improvement professionals, and a few fun treat, too.
- Wave to those new neighbors when you see them. Tacoma real estate agent Zac Schon says to remember that newcomers are transitioning to a new life and will appreciate the gesture.
- Drop off a couple of cold ones and menus to your favorite delivery and take-out places.
- Invite them to grill out in the backyard.
- Offer to watch their pets while they unload the moving truck.
- Ask if they need to borrow any tools, batteries, or small grocery items on their first day or two.
- Grab coffee or breakfast for your neighbor while they unpack.
- Share your email or phone number and invite them to reach out if they have questions about their new neighborhood.
- Join a group on Nextdoor or Facebook to find others with specific interests, or post into the feed introducing yourself to invite neighbors to meet up.
- If you’re new to the neighborhood, leave a friendly note introducing yourself to your next-door neighbors, and offer to chat once you unpack.
Kick-Off Summer Fun for Neighborhood Families
- Schon likes to set up a projector outside to watch a movie with his neighbors.
- He also recommends a game of over-the-fence badminton.
- Have a face-painting event for neighborhood kids.
- If your neighbor is still doing e-learning or has children home for the summer, offer to babysit for an hour so they can have a break.
- Jacksonville, North Carolina, real estate agent Angela Austin recommends offering to tutor local students.
- Organize a school supply drive for kids in need.
- Set up a carpool with a friendly neighbor for school dropoff or trips to the local pool or library.
- Organize a bike party, where both kids and adults can decorate their bikes and ride them in a parade around the neighborhood.
- Provide ways for kids to cool down in the summer. Share popsicles, spray bottle fans, or a big slip n’ slide.
- Organize a front door decorating contest and have residents vote on their favorites.
- Leave an inspiring message on the sidewalk with chalk.
- Start a neighborhood exercise group. Get together for walks, biking, local hikes, or yoga classes.
- Spearhead a book swap or book club or start a free little library.
- Everyone could use a smile this summer. Dawn Smith, entertaining expert and founder of Revel and Glitter, says neighbors should celebrate little moments like a student graduating 5th grade or a friend finishing a demanding project at work.
- For neighbors who aren’t able to visit, Smith likes to send a party in a box. She recommends including fun items like balloons, flowers, or a bottle of wine and a handwritten note to brighten your neighbor’s day.
- Smith suggests tossing a bit of confetti in an envelope with your handwritten note if a party box isn’t in your budget.
- Drop off a sweet little surprise for a neighbor if you know they’re celebrating a birthday.
- If you’re planning a gathering, Sill says to give your guests as much information about the event and your COVID guidelines as possible.
- Make sure your guests know you won’t be offended if they RSVP no. They may not be comfortable with gatherings yet, and that’s okay!
- If you turn down an invitation, Sill suggests offering to get together at a later date when you feel ready.
- Let your neighbors know if and when any fireworks displays are happening nearby — their dogs will appreciate the heads up.
- Keep your gatherings mostly outdoors in order to social distance properly.
- Be mindful of noise levels as many people continue to work from home.
- Donate to your local food pantry or blood bank to help avoid shortages.
- Start a mutual aid program if your neighborhood doesn’t have one.
- If you have extra household supplies from earlier in the pandemic, share with neighbors who can’t leave the house or donate them to a local shelter.
- Clean up litter around your neighborhood during a walk.
- If you see something damaged and know how to fix it, take care of it.
- Organize a clothing swap or swap meet instead of throwing things away.
- Start a fund for residents experiencing job loss due to COVID.
- Call 211 for information on where you can take donations.
- Make a list of local places to donate to, and share it with your neighbors who are likely also doing some decluttering.
- Create a neighborhood emergency preparedness plan.
- Organize a seed swap to connect with fellow gardening enthusiasts and try raising new plants.
Spruce Up Your Streets
- Get approval to paint a mural, commission one from a local artist, or get neighborhood kids involved.
- Build a community garden for a place to grow food and connect.
- Find out what projects your neighborhood association is working on and either contribute financially or volunteer your time to help.
- Up your home’s curb appeal to make your street a pleasant place to be. Try replacing the numbers on your mailbox or putting planters in your entryway.
- Plant flowers along sidewalks or on road medians.
Be a Good Neighbor Online, Too
- Create a Facebook group for your neighborhood if there isn’t one already.
- Create an email newsletter for your neighborhood, and include a link for people to submit their announcements.
- Start a neighborhood business directory so your neighbors can support each others’ small businesses whenever possible.
- Start a neighborhood job board for everything from quick yard work to full-time jobs.
- Start a “Buy Nothing” group instead of throwing reusable items away.
- Offer to be a moderator for an existing neighborhood Facebook group — leaving that responsibility to one or two people is a lot of work!
Prioritize Mental and Emotional Wellness
- Yesenia C. Dominguez, a licensed clinical social worker in California, recommends looking out for isolated neighbors and those managing mental health issues by writing a letter, dropping off care a package, or simply greeting them warmly from afar.
- Many people lost loved ones during the pandemic, so Dominguez suggests connecting with neighbors who are struggling by inviting them to events (online or otherwise). Don’t be afraid to talk about their loved one and share a sweet memory of them.
- Spread kindness to parents struggling at home with their children by reducing and eliminating shaming, judgmental language about parenting skills. Instead, Dominguez says to focus on the effort they are putting into keeping their families safe.
Champion Inclusivity and Diversity
- Rent and sell to BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and marginalized groups.
- Dominguez says neighborhoods are safest and most welcoming when they are inclusive of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ neighbors. Spreading kindness is an excellent place to start. If you see someone being unkind, racist, or hurtful, step in and support your neighbor.
- If your neighborhood association or HOA lacks diversity, ask why and advocate for that change.
- Band together to get essential accessibility projects done. If your neighborhood needs a ramp or safer crosswalks, address it together.
- Get to know your local representatives and how they affect your neighbors. Share what you learn with your community.
- Make it a point to vote in local elections, in addition to state and national elections.
Support Local Businesses
- Barter or trade with a neighbor. If they need yard work done and you could use a home-cooked meal, arrange a trade.
- Check out a new local business and leave them a glowing review.
- Smith says that if your neighbor’s local business is a hidden gem, you can share flyers with your community to help get customers in the door.
- If your neighbor’s business is still shut down or struggling, buy a gift certificate to use at a later date.
- If you live in an apartment, ask your building manager to partner with a local business for an event in your building’s lobby.
- Post to the recommendations category on Nextdoor and tag a favorite business to help boost their visibility. You might discover a new favorite, too.
- Next time you go to the market, Dominguez says to purchase flowers or fruit from your neighborhood street vendors. Get your lunch from the hot dog or taco stand. Every dollar counts for these small business owners.
Have a COVID-Safe Summer
- Austin urges neighbors to be vigilant in protecting others by getting vaccinated, maintaining social distancing, washing hands regularly, and wearing masks when needed.
- If a neighbor wants a COVID vaccine, help them secure an appointment or even offer to drive them. Check up on them afterward in case they feel under the weather.
- Drop off dinner for a busy healthcare worker in your neighborhood.
- Offer to grab groceries or pharmacy items for a neighbor experiencing vaccine side effects.
- If you want to hug or shake hands with your neighbor, ask if they are comfortable with it first.
- As children return to neighborhood playgrounds, talk with them about respecting their friends’ post-quarantine boundaries.
Care for Elderly and Immunocompromised Neighbors
- Sill likes to grab a pie from her local French bakery to drop off for her elderly neighbor who lives alone. She leaves it on the porch and sends a quick text to let her know about the delivery.
- She also suggests visiting with elderly neighbors. Some may not spend time on social media or texting apps, but an in-person visit for even 15 minutes can lift their spirits.
- If you’d like to check up on an elderly neighbor you’ve never formally met, start by leaving a polite note on their door. Leave your number and let them know you’d love to get to know them.
- Offer to walk or play with an elderly neighbor’s dog.
- Help quarantined or less-mobile neighbors clean up around their property. If you’re already mowing your lawn, perhaps offer to mow theirs, too.
- Help an elderly neighbor set up a video chat with faraway family members.
- When sharing a neighborhood announcement, share it both digitally and by mail or in person. That way, everyone has a chance to be in the know even if they aren’t online.
What’s your favorite way to be a good neighbor?