When Frugality Angers the Neighbors

frugal neighbors

Last fall we had new neighbors move in next door. They seemed nice enough until spring came and I started hanging my laundry out on the line again. One day the lady of the house came over and said, “Can you not hang your laundry on the line? It’s not nice to look at.” I was floored.

First of all, my line is almost hidden from her view by my deck and a thick grove of trees. In order to see it at all, she has to make a special effort. Second, we have no restrictions in our neighborhood regarding clotheslines and almost everyone in the neighborhood has one. Third, I do take care when hanging out the clothes to ensure that my “unmentionables” are hidden behind towels, shirts, or other larger items. My skivvies aren’t hanging out in the open. Fourth, I bring things in as soon as they are dry. I don’t leave them hanging out for days. Because I try to be courteous and a good laundry hanger, I was surprised that my new neighbor had any objection.

My first thought was to say, “Look, lady. Get off my property and mind your own business.” But instead I just told her that I would think about her request but since there were no rules against it, I didn’t really see what the problem was.” After she huffed off, I got to thinking. “What are my obligations to this neighbor, when giving in to her request will directly impact my financial well being, not to mention my personal enjoyment of sun dried clothes?”

This happens a lot in neighborhoods all over. Frugality clashes with what other neighbors think of as the perfect neighborhood. Maybe a neighbor objects to you turning your lawn into a food producing garden. Maybe the problem is that you’re doing your own automobile repair work and the car is on jacks in the yard for a few days. Maybe you’re keeping a couple of chickens for eggs. Or, as in my case, the problem is a clothesline. Do you try to make peace with the neighbor or do you give in, even if it means your happiness and finances take a hit? Or do you keep going as usual, disregarding the wishes of the neighbor?

The first consideration is whether or not you’re operating within the rules. If your neighborhood has any rules against what you’re doing and your neighbor calls you on it, then you have to abide by the rules. Even if other neighbors have let it slide before, your new neighbor has every right to object if what you’re doing is against the rules. If you keep going, your neighbor can make a legal case out of it which can cost you more money than your frugality is saving you. You can certainly lobby to change the rules but barring that, you should stop what you’re doing.

If there are no rules and the neighbors’ objection is a personal preference (or a personal problem with you), then you have more room. You could just tell your neighbor to stick it, but that’s not conducive to long term relations with these people. A better option is to try to work out a compromise. For example, you could agree that you will only hang out clothes on certain days and during certain hours. That way the complaining neighbor knows when you will be doing it and knows that there will be a finite end to the “ugliness.” You could put up a fence to block your car repair work from their view. Or, you could plant a screen of flowers around your vegetable garden. If the problem is one with no simple solution, such as is the case with noisy or smelly frugal acts (like keeping chickens), then the solution might be more difficult to find. Maybe you could share the eggs with your neighbor, or find some other benefit to your project that the neighbor can enjoy.

If no compromise can be found, then you have to decide whether or not the fight is worth it. Do you want to keep doing what you’re doing, even if it is angering the neighbors? Are you saving enough money or getting enough happiness out of the project that it’s worth the strained relationship? Or are you just doing it to stick it to the neighbor? If you’re getting enough value out of it to justify the other problems, then you might want to keep going. However, if the ugliness with the neighbors escalates, you might have to reconsider. If you’re just doing it to stick it to the neighbor, then you have to ask yourself whether it’s worth the bitterness on your end. If the joy in your frugality has turned to anger and bitterness, then what’s the point?

So what happened in my case? I got lucky. I saw her outside one day and went to speak to her. I told her that I had considered her request, but that I would continue to hang out my laundry. I gave her all of my reasons and I told her of the measures I took to keep the disturbance to a minimum (the same ones I listed in the beginning of this piece). She told me that she understood and that she wouldn’t complain any more, as long as I continued to be a good laundry hanger. I felt patronized, but I let it go in the interest of keeping things civil. I didn’t mention that she’s going to have this same battle with her other neighbor because she, too, hangs out her laundry. Since that neighbor isn’t nearly as easy going as I am, the new neighbor is going to have her hands full. That will be my revenge.

(Photo courtesy of Matthew Hunt)

This entry was posted in Frugal, Housing, Personal Finance, Relationships, Saving Money and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to When Frugality Angers the Neighbors

  1. shaabenanizer says:

    Glad you were able to still hang your laundry though you had to bite your tongue to do so. In my last residence the wicked witch of the neighborhood (lived next door to me!) hangs her laundry outside so thank goodness *that* was never an issue. Now I live in a condo where drying on the balcony is a major no-no, so I brought a beautiful chrome drying rack and then throw the almost-dry clothes and sheets into the dryer for fluffing and getting rid of the lints.

    A few blocks away a woman is illegally keeping a flock of 6 chickens in her townhouse. Everybody is cool with it and she shares the eggs with the neighbors; but she’s always worried that it takes only one person to report her to the city.

  2. I cannot believe the things people complain about! It would be amusing if it weren’t so annoying! (LOL!)

  3. teresa says:

    I have “wonderful” neighbors too, who needs enemies when you can have neighbors like that!!

  4. Fran says:

    haha…you think that’s bad? We have new hispanic neighbors who not only feel it appropriate to hang out their laundry, which I don’t mind, they don’t bother to use clothespins or a clothesline! They use ladders, trees, bushes; whatever is available at the time. Sometimes, they leave their laundry, including their skivvies, out on the line for days…letting it get rinsed and re-rinsed by the rain. We have a tall privacy fence so I can’t really see the mess until I get climb the ladder to get into our pool. Who cares! Live and let live I say.

  5. Spenser says:

    Lawns (as you mention) seem to be the most common in my experience. We can all agree that grass is, on paper, a gigantic waste of water and recourses, yet we are socially obligated to keep them looking reasonable.

  6. Chris says:

    I have three acres which grows beautiful tall grass that looks nice and natural that the deer roam through and some times lay down in for a spell. I only mow a smaller section that is immediately around my house.

    Every year I get a letter form the city stating that someone complains that my grass is too high and that the the rule is that no grass is too be higher then 12.” Their letter says that if I don’t get it cut within a few days the city will send someone out to cut it for me and send me the bill.

    I contacted the people that the city contracts with to cut grass and they wanted $1,200 to cut the grass! I finally got my guy to cut it for $300.

    Still it is another example of a neighbor nosing their way into somewhere it doesn’t need to be. I guess it is because they don’t have anything else better to do.

    I would continue to hang the clothes outside. Thanks for the article. It makes me want to hang my clothes outside. There is no rule against that where I live either.

  7. Gail says:

    I can’t imagine living on 3 acres and having to still abide by grass cutting regulations. probably because I live on 3 acres and I don’t. What I find hard to swallow with the things like the laundry and cutting the grass in what has to be the country, is the complainers are most likely the same ones to jump on the ecological bandwagon as long as they don’t have to do or see anything.

    If I had a neighbor complain about my laundry outside and I knew I was within my rights, I’m afraid I would have just said so sorry but this is what I do. None of her business what you do on your own land. hanging laundrey is good exercise, very soothing and saves on utilities. It is good for you!

  8. Susan says:

    When you live in an area where there is acreage. The need for safety becomes a higher priority. Grasses need to be cut down on a regular basis. If there is a fire, you are threatening your neighbors home as well as your own.

  9. Jo says:

    I can be pretty rebellious given the nature of the situation, especially if I know I am within my rights and haven’t offended anyone yet; or, they’ve given me a thumbs up and to just do it.

    If your situation, Jennifer, had happened to me, I would have politely, but firmly, told her that as long as she doesn’t pay my property taxes, I will continue to put my clothes on the line. I would do as you did, however, by discreetly hanging up my skivvies between the linen on the inside lines. I would still do this anyways since I don’t believe in “airing my laundry” both metaphorically speaking and literally. 😛

  10. Cleo says:

    How do you keep birds from pooping on your laundry? I think laundry looks okay hanging out to dry.

  11. tdls17 says:

    Hi, you showed a lot of class. As mentioned, there were no association rules barring you from hanging the laundry. Also, you weren’t hanging it out in plain sight.

    Seems a little petty on your neighbor’s part. I would think she could put up a privacy fence if it bothered her that much. It’s your property.

  12. Breton Wench says:

    Oh poor you! I was livid when I read your neighbours first comments: Here in rural France, we hang the duvets and sheets out of the windows on fine days to catch the sun and air it…….what would she say about that :-O.
    And the elderly lady in the next cottage actually collects my clothes from the line if it starts to rain, now that is a REAL neighbour. Even though it can be really embarrassing if you have just washed the undies……

  13. sue says:

    What a great story! I got a great one for you..a new set of neighbors moved into the cottage up the hill from my house, on the same property. Compared to all the riff raff that had lived there before, we were impressed..the front yard was immaculate, they resurrected many of the bushes and trees. They built a little, tasteful storage shed for their supplies, utilized underneath the cottage for storage(built on a hill so half is on stilts) but soon they started creeping down the driveway with their landscaping, then the yard underneath their deck they “adopted” (which is really our side yard on other side of our garage) yes it looked beautiful, but soon they were down on our level of the property on a regular basis. 6am and they were out there dragging the green waste bin around, weed whacking etc.

    Next thing I know they are washing their cars on our driveway so they can do it “in the shade”

    Soon I was being questioned as to what I was going to do with items I had out in my yard. I recycle, so once a week or every two weeks I load up my car with everything. In the mean time I have it sorted in boxes out in my carport..oh that wasn’t good enough for them. Then. We had a lot of construction equipment and materials we stacked on the side of our garage.. Some of it was on craigslist, some was just sitting there, because it can.its our place. No one can see our property from the street, especially the garage.

    Well one morning the neighbor comes down to question me when the items on the side of the house were going to be removed. I explained that it wasn’t my stuff but the other neighbor who rents a room on the property, and that only one item belonged to me, but one of my friends was going to come pick it up when he can bring his truck..

    Well a out 2 weeks go by..and one Monday morning the neighbor comes down demanding I move everything(3 items) from the side of my garage area. Now I was just over it.

    I told him it will be moved when it gets moved and maybe he should just look the other way.

    Well that threw him into a tizzy..he then said he was going to move everything into the middle of my driveway so that I can look at it just the way he has to..

    Well I went and got the other neighbor, a big tall dude with a mouth on him. He stopped the guy from touching his equipment, told him to get off his property and never to come down into our area again.

    We then called the landlords to complain. They drove over themselves to see what all the hub-bub was about.
    After they took a stroll of the property, they could not see anything that looked like an eyesore, improperly stored, or out of line. Mind you, we even have remodeling of the downstairs portion of the house going on..we have the sheet rock and tiles outside too..and it looked fine to them.

    The next day the crazy neighbor took a weed whacker to all the flowers and plants he had planted in the adopted area, cut down small trees and bushes as well, all in a tantrum.

    Thinking back, I sure would love to have the old neighbors back.. A noisy young couple who had loud barbecues every weekend..they weren’t perfect but they were sure nice and didn’t care about what we did on our part of the property!

    What I would give to have them back, an occasional fallen Heineken bottle or chicken wing under their deck would be warmly welcomed instead of any crazy petunias!

    Now we were dealing with a nut!

    If we hadn’t put a stop to their requests and comments then what would happen next? Would they tell us they don’t like our make and model of cars parked in the driveway!

    I say some people should move to a gated community if they don’t want to live amongst us “average Joe’s”
    Sometimes the neighbors are freaks and you just have to put them in their place, or they will mow you right over!

  14. baselle says:

    What galls me about this story is that they were the “new” people. I thought “new” people are supposed to fit in with the neighborhood, not the other way around!

    Reminds me that I used to live on a farm. We had one neighbor who had a house with yardage (no farm), but used to complain about farm smells, eg manure. Ahem, we didn’t pull a bait and switch on ya! The barn, shed, fence, Holstein cows, garden, tractor, farm implements … all perfectly visible when you and the real estate agent came out to the house. And it wasn’t just us … there were 5 small farms around you. Its not our problem that you had an image of country life but your nose was disappointed. Or that you saw the cows, but failed to take that natural step of imagination to note that they excrete.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *