I don't want to write back on an empty soda bottle
February 26, 2011 5:25 PM   Subscribe

How should I set things right with my neighbor when their communications to me have been slightly crazy?

I live in a very small apartment building. I share about a 40ft porch with one other neighbor; our doors are on opposite ends. For the last week I've had trash directly outside my door. Obviously, I shouldn't have left it this long, and I'm not trying to argue it isn't an eyesore.

Yesterday, they left a note that said "REMOVE TRASH HEALTH ISSUE" taped to my door. The note was written using stencils.
Today, I opened my door to the hallway of the building and they had left a small pile of empty plastic bottles outside their door (which is across from mine) with a note written in Sharpie on an empty milk container that read "If you're not sorry If this is your trash would you leave it here" (the bottles weren't mine, by the way).

Well, I obviously know leaving trash around is gross, but I'm not sure how to make it up to my neighbors. If they had knocked on my door I would have apologized, and probably invited them in for a beer. Now I don't know what to do -- I love living here and I don't want to have angry neighbors who hate me, but I also don't want to play Crazy Games, like leaving messaged trash by their door.

Other than cleaning up (something already on the top of To-Do list), should I go over and knock on their door and apologize? Or just chalk them up as kinda loony and not bother?
posted by missmary6 to Human Relations (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I would leave them a Totally Sane note. I wouldn't do a beer invitation, though, because they've come across as crazy and you don't owe them anything but an apology (and wide berth, yikes!). Just,

Hi, Neighbor at ##-
So sorry about the trash. It won't happen again!
Best,
Neighbor at ##

That's it. Don't engage the crazy. Do apologize. You're doing the right thing.
posted by ldthomps at 5:33 PM on February 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Even a note has the possibility of enraging this person further. Just clean the trash and don't do it again.
posted by Etrigan at 5:35 PM on February 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


You have had trash outside your door for a week, and even now it is just "on top of the to-do list"? The first step to improving relations with your neighbor is to take the time you're spending on Metafilter and use it to remove the trash.
posted by lalex at 5:36 PM on February 26, 2011 [42 favorites]


Other than cleaning up (something already on the top of To-Do list)

BZZZZZZZZZTTT! Trash should already be cleaned up. Before posting here. Your priorities are askew. Clean up your mess now.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:36 PM on February 26, 2011 [17 favorites]


Just get rid of all of your trash as soon as possible and don't leave trash outside your door anymore. Leaving a nice note is also OK but not really necessary and I probably wouldn't do it.
posted by rio at 5:37 PM on February 26, 2011


Clean up your stuff, don't do it again. If their own trash stays there, that's THEIR issue. Don't bother with a note. In the future, if you can't take the trash out right away, leave it inside the apartment instead of in public view. They'll have less chance to get crazy on you again.

... Though ideally you should be removing it as soon as it's full. (I also realize this isn't always a possibility; when I lived in an apartment, the dumpster was frequently overfilled and management would scream at us if we left more. Yeah, I didn't live there long.)
posted by Heretical at 5:42 PM on February 26, 2011


If you are convicted that you should set things right, then you should do so. How to do it is the issue: in like fashion would be my suggestion (not with a stenciled note though). Write a note, thank them for letting you know, tell them it won't happen again... and then don't do it again.
posted by brownrd at 5:42 PM on February 26, 2011


Note leaving is so... ugh.

Just knock on their door, apologise, say it won't happen again and then (this is key) make sure it doesn't!

Clean up first.
posted by gaspode at 5:48 PM on February 26, 2011


Other than cleaning up (something already on the top of To-Do list)

I hope that's referring to a general cleaning up of your apartment and not to clearing out the bags of trash. The bags of trash should have been cleaned up yesterday.

You might want to get your priorities in order. I've never signed a lease that didn't have a clause about trash. Meaning, that if you don't properly dispose of all trash and trash bags (putting them in designated trash cans) that the rental company can remove them at a cost to the owner of the bags (I've seen anywhere from $50 - $100 per bag) and that it can be terms for eviction if it's an ongoing problem. I'm sure if you keep doing what you're doing, they're going to phone the landlord. I'm not a tidy person by any means, but my habits have never carried over to cause problems for my neighbors.

Unless you hole yourself up in your apartment for weeks, taking the trash out is easy. You take the bag with you when you leave.

Leaving trash bags out is gross. It attracts rats and other vermin and it definitely is a health issue. Your neighbor may not have had the best stragedy in communication, but they shouldn't have been put in that situation in the first place. I'd write them a note and apologize for your behavior and tell them that it won't happen again.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:49 PM on February 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


Leave them a gift (flowers? cookies from a bakery?) and leave a note of apology!

Seriously. You have no standing here.

They just want to know you understand. By leaving a gift and nice note of apology you head off any future weirdness.
posted by jbenben at 5:52 PM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry forgot to address this in my first comment:

Obviously, I shouldn't have left it this long, and I'm not trying to argue it isn't an eyesore.

Uh, it's more than an eyesore. It's a health hazard and it's completely and utterly 100% disrespectful and rude to your neighbors. You've left it out for a week? That's maddening and I don't blame your neighbor for the slightly "crazy" communication. Your habits are probably driving them crazy. Jbenben has good advice. It seems that the neighbor is looking for validation of their feelings and I don't blame them. Give them validation in the form of a note and a gift. Or a knock on the door with a gift and a profuse apology.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:02 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nthing what jbenben said. They just want you to understand and not do it again. A few apartments ago, my upstairs neighbor went away for the night on a weeknight after accidentally setting his alarm to play Ricky Martin at top volume at 4 a.m. I wrote him a cranky sleep-deprived note, and he left a sweet note of apology and some tulips in return. The gesture really helped. It never happened again and he ended up being a really great neighbor.
posted by mochapickle at 6:06 PM on February 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm going to take a contrary view and say that without seeing the trash, we don't even know if their neighbors' actions are reasonable. The area right outside your door, 30 feet from their door, is essentially yor own area, be it for a potted plant, holiday wreath, surfboard drying, or whatever. The neighbors sound aggressive and unreasonable to me. Obvs, clean up a bit, do you really want your face to the world to be (not a wreath or holiday lights but) a pile of trash?, but do not bow down to the crazy. All of you criticizing the trash, how would you deal with a trash-leaver? By leaving a pile of bottles with a note on it that says "how do YOU like it??" No. The neighbors seem weird. Give them wide berth.
posted by salvia at 6:07 PM on February 26, 2011


The area right outside your door, 30 feet from their door, is essentially yor own area, be it for a potted plant, holiday wreath, surfboard drying, or whatever.

Have you ever lived in an apartment before? They are renting therefore they do not own the space. As I said in a previous comment, I've never signed a lease that did not have a provision about trash. I've also never signed a lease that didn't state that the inside of the apartment had to be kept in a somewhat tidy fashion. Failure to comply was grounds for terminating the lease. Just because you rent, does not give you free reign to do whatever you what with whatever you want. Rules and provisions exist for a reason and the OP is obviously in the wrong. When you live in an apartment building, you are living with other people and you should do everything you can to be a respectable neighbor. The OP is not being a respectable neighbor and the note leaving neighbor should not have been put in the position they were in.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:12 PM on February 26, 2011


The area right outside your door, 30 feet from their door, is essentially yor own area, be it for a potted plant, holiday wreath, surfboard drying, or whatever.

Not for trash. MaryDellamorte has it; the rotting contents of trash bags are an invitation to rats, raccoons, insects, and other types of vermin that might very reasonably be considered undesirable by a porch neighbor.

I am far from a tidy germ-phobe myself, but this is just gross.
posted by lalex at 6:15 PM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


salvia makes a good point and takes a stance I usually advocate here on the green. I also rarely advocate giving in or acknowledging the crazy. I'll explain, though, why this situation is different.

- Apartment buildings, especially shared or common areas, are a slippery slope when it comes to trash or hoarding or the pile-up of excessive brick-a-brack. Overlook a little bit once, and it becomes a message to all that this sort of thing is acceptable. Suddenly, the building looks like an episode of Sanford & Son!

- Furthermore, smelly rotten garbage left out for a week is simply unacceptable no matter how you slice it.

- Lastly, it is really hard to communicate with the people you live near. At first you don't say anything. Then the frustration builds along with resentment because people take conditions where they live very very personally. As they should.

I advocated the gift and note because the OP really wants to smooth this over and go back to being distant and friendly. Anything less may not convey adequately the OP's understanding of the situation. With the appropriate gesture, this unfortunate incident can become a distant memory.



If the OP had left the garbage out overnight or even 2 days, I'd say the neighbor was excessive. But this isn't what happened, so I get it.
posted by jbenben at 6:21 PM on February 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I say keep to yourself, keep the common areas clean, but don't respond to their childish behavior. They couldn't control their emotions to come to you like adults and say how much it bothers them and ask you nicely. Keep your stuff clean, so they don't have anything against you any more, but no gifts, no notes(which is passive aggressive of them, btw, and very immature), no sorry, nothing. If you see them in the hall way, say your generic, hellos, and move on.

If you have garbage that you don't wanna take out cause it's too cold, or you don't own any shoes, then leave it by your door INSIDE, till you're ready to take it outside.
posted by icollectpurses at 6:26 PM on February 26, 2011


Everything's cleaned up! I've decided to leave them a note of apology. You guys are right to point out that even though it's by my door it's still an apartment building, and that trumps individual space. Thanks for the reality check, guys!
posted by missmary6 at 6:31 PM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Where I vacation, leaving trash out is against the law. As Mary says, the reason for not leaving trash out is because it attracts animals. Now here in B.C., those animals are bears, but, still. You don't want any animals to get socialized to it, lest they wind up ringing your doorbell at all hours.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:31 PM on February 26, 2011


I went over to their end of the porch to tape a note up and they have three bags of trash outside THEIR door. I decided against the note.
posted by missmary6 at 7:04 PM on February 26, 2011


Oh, leave the note anyway. Be the better person.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:18 PM on February 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yeah I get what you guys are saying about the vermin and the weeklong delay, and how the note would best convey the sentiments expressed in the question.

I'd still keep the neighbors on the Crazies watchlist because flaky inaction and lack of neighborly consideration is an entirely different level of wrongness than effortful vengeful retribution. I'm not saying two wrongs make a right; do what you believe to be right so you can feel good about your own behavior. (I probably would leave a note myself.) What I am saying is that it may not make much of a difference and you can probably cross "have great relationship with neighbors" off of your Hopes for 2011 list -- it sounds unlikely. Put yourself in the mind of someone who would leave two notes within 36 hours and create their own pile of trash to show you how it feels. They're taking revenge, really? Revenge?

Oh, on preview, wow. At least we know the driving issue for the neighbors is not really fear of a terrible threat to health, or else they would not have brought it thirty feet closer to themselves.
posted by salvia at 7:36 PM on February 26, 2011


It sounds as though they're being passive aggressive to the max by leaving trash outside their door. See how long it stays there... if it's an unreasonable amount of time, call the landlord on them. None of this sissy, note-leaving, passive aggressive shit. THIS IS WAR!!!
posted by XhaustedProphet at 9:22 PM on February 26, 2011


Oh for heaven's sake, the last thing you want with neighbors -- especially crazy ones -- is war. At the very least, write a note that says "I understand your concern, it won't happen again" and be done with it. Keep the peace.
posted by mochapickle at 10:11 PM on February 26, 2011


1) clean up the trash now
2) don't do it again
3) bring them a gift of nice cookies (from a nice bakery) and apologize.
4) avoid annoying them in the future

Unless you have a broken limp, are recuperating from major surgery, or have had a major illness, you shouldn't leave trash outside your door on a shared porch ever, and especially not for a week. That your neighbors are passive aggressive is a completely different problem.
posted by fifilaru at 10:18 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


that should be limb, darn Metafiler, add an edit button!!
posted by fifilaru at 10:20 PM on February 26, 2011


Look, they're pissed off. You left trash out for a freakin' week, and that was very uncivilized and un-neighborly.

But if you strive to be the bigger person right now, things should be back to normal quickly. Their petty effort at "revenge" was a really bad idea, but now that the trash is cleaned up and you have left a note, you have every reason to expect that within a few days there will be peace between you and your neighbor.
posted by jayder at 11:17 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I went over to their end of the porch to tape a note up and they have three bags of trash outside THEIR door. I decided against the note.

Whether or not they are being petty and vengeful right now is not the point. You still did something wrong that you still owe them an apology for. Good relationships with your apartment neighbors are priceless.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 11:29 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I went over to their end of the porch to tape a note up and they have three bags of trash outside THEIR door. I decided against the note.

Oh, leave the note anyway. Be the better person.


I am ninety-three percent certain that leaving the note, while the neighbors had trash outside their door, would be seen by the neighbors as an act of war.
"Oh, that bitch must have been waiting all week, until the five goddamn minutes that I had the bags out there because I was running across the street to save a kitten from a fire, and then she left a stupid note! Can you believe the nerve!"
Of course it wasn't five minutes, and there was no kitten, but that's not how people think. People always have better excuses for their trash than you have for yours.

missmary6 did exactly the right thing under the circumstances. Anything else at this point is going to reignite the issue.
posted by Etrigan at 6:02 AM on February 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's my final thought on the issue after chewing over all your thoughtful responses.

My askme wasn't 'was leaving trash outside my door totally wrong and disgusting?' it was 'should I/how should I deal with my neighbors regarding the issue?'

I've never left trash outside my door in the years I've lived here. I don't burn incense; I listen to music seldomly and quietly. I make one mistake, an egregious one yes, and my neighbors leave a note written in stencil and a small art installation of their own trash with an unintelligible note written ON an empty milk jug. You know what? That's CRAZY. I'm pretty sure a note from me would not be taken in the sincere apologetic way it was written. I AM truly sorry, but I don't feel the need to fall all over myself with cookies and beer.

Also, you have no way of knowing this, but this is the couple who have used lawn chairs the entire winter to block off the most amount of room possible in our small, communal parking area, since the plowed piles have make parking even tighter for everyone. To me, these are neighbors who are gonna do what they do/feel what they feel regardless of a note from me.
posted by missmary6 at 8:34 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I make one mistake, an egregious one yes, and my neighbors leave a note written in stencil and a small art installation of their own trash with an unintelligible note written ON an empty milk jug. You know what? That's CRAZY.

At least they took a peaceful step to communicate with you about their displeasure and attempt to resolve the problem. And look, the problem is now resolved. They accomplished their goal. Stop focusing on your distaste for how they communicated with you.
posted by jayder at 3:47 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


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