Was Robert Frost Right? Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?

I read Robert Frost's poem, Mending Wall, when I was in the 8th grade.  Even then, when I didn't know what it would be like 30 years later to live within mere feet of my neighbors, I identified with the curmudgeonly neighbor who keeps insisting that "good fences make good neighbors."  

Picket fence

photo credit

Even then, I thought the speaker in the poem who didn't want the fence between he and his neighbor was being kind of an insensitive jerk.

And my view hasn't changed much since then.  If anything it's gotten stronger.  Much, much stronger.

One day this summer, I found out on Facebook that my need for good fences makes me seem like a curmudgeon, much like the neighbor in Frost's poem.  

I grew up on land.  Just an acre, which isn't much.  But it was enough to provide privacy. And boundaries.

The big man grew up on land too, with a huge yard he and his brothers had to rake and mow growing up, much like my brother.  

And for the past 15 years, I've lived on a lot that's 50 feet wide.  Our driveway is so close to our neighbor's house that we can literally see into their windows.  

If we wanted.  Which we don't.  

The proximity, for the most part, hasn't been a huge problem over the years. 

Sure, I don't want to say "howdy" to the neighbors if they're standing outside when we pull in.  And I usually don't.  They all probably think we're elitist.  But the reality is we just like privacy.  If my kids are having an "I'm too tired to function" meltdown in the car, I really don't want the neighbors to watch it because their house is so close.  

The "keeping up with the Joneses" scenario on the weekend is annoying.  Just because one person decides to do yardwork, why do 5 other neighbors have to do it?  Why can't we just do yardwork on our own time?  Which, in our case, might be never, as we hate it.  I'm sure our neighbors love that.

Maybe these expectations of mine make me an old-fashioned curmudgeon.

Maybe I'm the unreasonable one to want privacy in my own home and my own yard.

But I am who I am.

And that's a person who likes boundaries and tries to respect the boundaries of others.

Good fences, in all respects, really do make good neighbors in my world.

What's it like in your world?  

Addendum:  I am totally ok if you disagree with me.  As a matter of fact, I'd love to hear what you like about close neighbor relationships.  I haven't found that joy yet.

Addendum 2: I'm aware that I'm blogging on a public blog that my neighbors can find any time.  If so, I apologize now.  It's less you, and more me.  


  1. I like my neighbors. I like that we are all (for the most part)friendly with one another. But I also like our fences. Boundaries are healthy, right?

  2. I also like privacy, and, like you, I think it comes from growing up with it.
    Is there no way you could put a hedge or fence near your driveway?
    All that said, I also like my neigbors, but I guess that’s just luck of the draw. You just don’t know until you live next to them!

  3. We have a little more space around our home and our home’s lot – but still less privacy. We live on an cul-du-sac (which means about 8 homes ALWAYS looking at the front of our home – include at least 12 children in those 8 homes all under the age of 12.) When we built our home we choose to build on a small pond – not realizing that this also pretty much put us in the same scenario in our back yard too. I’m OK with the neighbors – our life would be SO different if we didn’t have their “invasion,” but we do try to keep our space and our distance because sometimes we want to be by ourselves… and that is harder then one might think, especially on a nice weekend day. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. LOL! I’m loving Addendum #2. So classic!
    I personally do not like the close neighbor thing. I just like privacy. I’m with you!

  5. I think it’s important to have good relationships with your neighbors,like yesterday when I was over 30 minutes away for the day and thought I left my flat iron on…haven’t gotten the key back from the neighbors from being away and they were able run over and unplug it, but it can be tough to be really close friends because things can go wrong fast!
    My yard is fenced because while we have an okay amount of space on the sides, we do not have big back yards and my neighborhood was pretty much clear cut, so it was a little fishbowlish in the back. I’ll never for get the night I went out to grill and there was a guy in the backyard. His actually, but I didnt’ know anyone had moved in and I was so startled!

  6. My neighbors are one of the top three reasons I want to move out of my house. And sometimes cry about it. If I didn’t have a privacy fence I might lose it. So I am on your side (of the fence).

  7. We like to speak to our neighbors, every once in a while, if we’re feeling sociable. Other than that, we want to be left alone. We’ve been fortunate so far with our neighbors, in that they seem to feel the same way. We talk to each other if we want to, but no one gets offended if we don’t speak for a few weeks. We’ve had some new neighbors move in recently and my husband has been panicked because he’s afraid they might not like the fact that we want to ignore everyone else and just live our private lives!

  8. I agree. Fences are the best. I worked with someone that moved here from the MidWest and he was shocked that we didn’t have a shared green space and that everyone had fenced in yards. I don’t understand having your yard open to everyone. Just no.

  9. I love my privacy!! If I want to share everything…I’ll invite you over. I don’t want anyone seeing it by accident. When my husband and I first got married we lived in a condo, then we had Ash and moved to a townhouse, a few years after Bean we are settled into an acre and a half and I do not ever want less land. I love that we can all live and not pretend.

  10. Totes agree friend! We have very close neighbors on both sides of our house and in addition to our fabulous fences, we planted privets so we are a little more secluded. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. I am with you on this one! I wish I had more bushes and more fences between my neighbors. It is not that I don’t like them, it’s that I too like my privacy. In regards to your 2nd addendum, I applaud you for knowing what you like (boundaries) and doing what you need. I have lots of personal fences up and offends some people. But it makes me nicer because if you come inside my fence then I can be really uncomfortable and therefore not so nice. So I just tell people, ie. my mom, look this my boundary. I want to keep being nice so please stay outside the fence on this issue! Same goes with fences between neighbors…

  12. I like our neighbors for the most part. But I like our privacy more… especially when one of said neighbors waltzes into our home uninvited through the garage when we had just gotten home and the door was still open. Really????? Can you say NOSY! Also, one of our neighbors seems to mistake our occasional friendliness with an open invitation to knock on our door every night exactly when we sit down to dinner so his daughter could play. We are not your damn babysitters. So, yes, I tend to agree with your sentiments!!!

  13. I’m actually a lot like you. I like my space, I like my privacy. I don’t like to talk much (although sometimes I will blab forever). But my house is my sanctuary and it’s the one place that I should feel like I can be who and what I want without worrying about pleasing everyone.

  14. We live in base housing so we are right on top of our neighbors. Luckily we have polite ones. I’ve heard horror stories. We usually give polite waves when we see each other and go on our way.

  15. I prefer tall fences. I like visiting with my neighbors on my terms, not when I’m weeding the garden in my pjs @ 8am or an evening of visiting with my close friends around my fire pit. Exiting my home should not be an open invitation to for them to ask “Want to hear about my fabulous summer vacation?” or “mind if crash your party?” You can’t really chose your neighbors, and if given the choice, I don’t think I would choose some of my neighbors as friends. I know that a polite smile, nod acknowledgment is all I can muster some days, which I know we all must feel from time to time. I wish that all of our neighbors could understand these boundary lines. Sounds like some of your followers need to develop some boundaries of their own with their neighbors. I’m still working on my own issues, but a few “no’s ” and “now is not a good time” go a long way.

  16. Ooo, I’m with you (though I wish I weren’t the curmudgeon in the family). My husband and kids chat up the neighbors all the time. I have to be in the mood (guess how often that happens!). And, like you, I’d prefer our neighbors not hear/see all that happens in our family. I do like that our neighbors keep an eye on our house for us, so that’s one blessing of living 24 inches from our neighbors! Great post!

  17. I believe in fences, both literally and figuratively,with neighbors, friends, bosses, spouses, and even with my children. There I said it. Yes, even with my kids. I can love someone with all my heart, but certain things belong behind the fence. Great post!

  18. I am so completely with you on this one. Maybe it’s because I live in NYC and we literally live on top of each other so I cherish and respect any space and privacy that there is. I think that living in Brooklyn we are a bit more friendly with our neighbors than I ever was when living in Manhattan. We hang out in front of our apartment, kids play and have stoop parties but still, but I think that’s also more the reason to have fences ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. I have to admit, I’m right there with ya. I like a fence and I like boundaries.
    On the flip side I would like to know my neighbors more than we do, but we {my neighbors and I} are just at 2 different stages in life. They are older than we are and so are their kids. They are nice and we do the whole ‘hello’ wave thing, but nothing more than that.
    At the house we used to live at we had neighbors we got along with very well. We had similar views regarding boundaries and respected one another. It was also nice because in the summer we had someone to sit outside and have a few drinks with.

  20. I agree 120%. I like privacy, I don’t go around saying howdy to my neighbors either. In our old house we never used our backyard until we put up a fence.

  21. Giggle. I’m TERRIBLE at boundaries. Just fucking DREADFUL. I’m SO grateful when somebody erects a nice fence, because then I can tell. But then, sometimes, I can’t tell. Sometimes, the last owner did that, and then I go trampling over and ruin something by accident.
    And I am right there with you on yard work. We are ‘that house’ on our street.

  22. We spent months searching for a house because I wanted to live where you could borrow a cup of sugar. Since we moved here 30 years ago, we have had wonderful neighbors of all ages who have watched our house and fed our pets when we are gone, shared rides and tomatoes (and sometimes a cup of sugar), and whose children have been angels. We have also had neighbors who have had challenges such as alcoholism, loud arguments, and incorrigible pets. Through it all, it’s good to have fences, even though ours are only waist-high.

  23. I can see both sides of the fence… Excuse the pun. Growing up in a cul de sac we knew all of our neighbors and it was really really nice. On one side our neighbors didnt have a fence and it was fun to sneak in their yard. However, I also like privacy and sometimes I dont feel like saying hello. I just want to get inside and get my kids in without an awkward conversation. And I definitely don’t care for yard work!

  24. I think my neighbors are happy to have fence. JDaniel would love to play with their boys 24/7.

  25. My neighbors are all completely fine. But I rarely want to talk to them. The stars have to be aligned for me to want to stand around outside and BS. Like, I have to be dressed, not in PJs, with nothing to do, with the kids in a good mood. Then I’ll be neighborly ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. I dream of having a bigger fence! My neighbors are perfectly nice, but I like my privacy. We actually have a fence between our yards, but for some reason they built their swingset right next to it. Their kids climb up and wave to us when we’re in our pool – Yay.

  27. I agree on this one. I am not one to get close to my neighbors, though their kids seem to think they can just walk in. I prefer privacy; just wish I had a fence.

  28. My neighbor drives thru my yard to get to his buddies house who lives on the other side of my house (yes I said drives thru my yard), borrows my tools when I’m not home, uses my grill without permission, helps himself to my firewood , yells obscenties at his wife while outside, just shows up when i have company without being invited and on top of all of that his dog uses my yard as a toilet. My fence is going in day after tomorrow. I can’t wait. Nothing worse than a neighbor with no boundries. I’ve had great neighbors and horrible neighbors. This Guy is absolutely the worst. I’m actually considering moving if the fence doesn’t work.

Speak Your Mind