Help us keep the neighbors happy!
June 17, 2011 1:38 PM   Subscribe

My family (husband and 2 toddlers) lives in a town home and noise from our place is a constant concern of mine. We recently upgraded to a four bedroom that was occupied by a little old lady for quite a number of years. The ladies who live on either side of us seem to be very nice, but our second weekend into the new place we had one come over and ask us to quiet down.

We weren't really being that loud, I promise. The kids were playing in their rooms and running back and forth. Mostly it was just excitement from the move and each having their own rooms now. Our old town home was awesome. Our neighbor had kids as well, so noise was never a problem for either of us. And I never even noticed if they were overly loud, because she never noticed if we were being overly loud.

My husband works nights and I stay home with our two little ones. He sleeps during the day, so the kids and I are usually gone during the day until lunch time or nap time.

But ever since that encounter, I find myself constantly telling them to hush, walk quietly down the stairs, i'm even afraid to let them play in their rooms now because I don't want the neighbor on us again. She also happens to be on the board of our co-op, so I'm extra sensitive to noise level.

I was hoping that others might have suggestions on how to keep neighborly peace, but still feel like we can talk above a whisper.

My children are 2 1/2 and 4 1/2. Moving is not an option (extremely low rent for a four bedroom, wonderful area that's pretty crime free, very clean neighborhood and wonderful parks around us.), or switching town homes. We have waited 3 years to get this place.

Any suggestions on noise control, tips or tricks...just anything really. I want to feel confident with the kids in the house and not scared all the time.
posted by Sweetmag to Human Relations (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:40 PM on June 17, 2011 [7 favorites]

Best answer: lots of people are going to suggest improvements. i recommend that you stop trying to keep your kids quiet. your neighbor needs to get acclimated to the noise of a normal family next door--keeping the noise down now means you're raising her expectations on how quiet your family can be.
posted by lester at 1:44 PM on June 17, 2011 [46 favorites]

Things like area rugs and wall hangings can help absorb some of the sound, but the reality is that kids just make some noise sometimes. During typical daytime hours (not super early morning) it seems like something reasonable neighbors learn to deal with.

Have you approached your neighbor on the other side to see if the noise is bothering her? It may be that the woman who approached you just has greater sound sensitivity for whatever reason. Either way, I'd bet that being friendly and acting first to address it will go a long way. Introduce yourself and your kids, bring a small token like cookies or something and just say that you know that it's going to be a change from how quiet things were before but you want to work with them to make sure it doesn't get too loud. Offer to be available for stuff like accepting packages and let them know that you're really happy to be in the neighborhood and are excited to have great neighbors.
posted by goggie at 1:46 PM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Rugs on rugs. And no shoes inside (socks or slippers) - this makes things quieter since you don't usually run as fast in socks, slippers or bare feet. And, may as well teach them the concept of "Indoor Voice" vs "Outdoor Voice," since their teachers are going to demand it anyway.

OTOH, your kids are probably quieter than most people's TVs, so lester's advice is also good.
posted by toodleydoodley at 1:46 PM on June 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

Same situation. Not much you can do, except to maintain friendly relations with your neighbours, and manage expectations, such as quiet time from 8pm to 7am. That's all you can do.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:47 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lester has a good point. Start loud, then quiet down.
posted by salvia at 1:47 PM on June 17, 2011

Best answer: I admire your interest in keeping your neighbors happy, and for reminding your kids about indoor versus outdoor noise. Reminders on the stairs like "Hush on Stairs!" will remind them visually and maybe help build their vocabulary at the same time. Rugs help. But realistically... the ladies on either side moved into a townhome community where children are allowed to live, and if the kids are well-behaved and not out of control, you are fulfilling all of your obligations.

It is deeply unfair to be constantly exhausted by vigilance on keeping children quiet in their own home. Let them play in their rooms with reminders about inside and outside noise. Don't let the ladies on either side of you be allowed to bully you and your family.

I had this problem with my dog - I don't mean to compare your kids to my dog, but the whole reasonable noise versus condo board neighbor situation - and asked a post on MeFi last year. I encourage you to read the whole thread, lots of good advice and support and ideas there.

posted by juniperesque at 1:49 PM on June 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Don't know what time your neighbor came to you, but I think it's reasonable to not stress too much about the noise early in the day but make sure it's quiet in the evening when your neighbor might conceivably go to bed. I'm pretty sensitive to noise myself. I do understand that my neighbors have kids, and that they need talk to each other, even if I can hear it through the walls. Not cool when it is after 10:30 or so though.
posted by mlle valentine at 1:51 PM on June 17, 2011

Rugs and more rugs. Try to get your children to quiet down. Have you ever had loud neighbors? It is unbearable.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:53 PM on June 17, 2011 [8 favorites]

You should probably take seriously the noise issue. In particular, it sounds as though all the noise is happening during the evening which is when many people are hoping to relax. What's reasonable during the day may not be so in the evening, and less so later in the night. What's reasonable in a single family dwelling may not be reasonable in a multi-family structure.

One thing you could do is let the neighbors know you're trying to figure out the noise issue and ask them to let you know when it's loud. You may also ask if you can pop by for a visit, then wait a bit for the kids to start getting loud so you can assess what it sounds like from your neighbor's perspective.

I would probably not push to get your neighbors to get used to it. If they don't have children, they won't get used to it, and if they're on the co-op board, going head to head with them is not a good idea.
posted by Hylas at 1:57 PM on June 17, 2011 [7 favorites]

You should see this question I asked a while back - there are some good soundproofing strategies in there.

Instead of feeling nervous about it all the time, I would try to work on repeating to myself that my family is justified in making a 'reasonable' amount of noise for a family with toddlers. There will be some running, some shrieking, etc. which is all part of children playing and surely has been for all of time. This is reasonable.

I think that you do have to teach the kids to be conscientious about the noise they are making, but they're a bit young for that yet and you don't want them to feel guilty about having fun. We lived in townhouse rentals for my entire childhood. I remember that we we always had to walk quietly (no stomping!), and I do remember my mom being paranoid about us getting in trouble due to noise. We never did, though.
posted by kitcat at 2:01 PM on June 17, 2011

"Hey neighbor, I know there was an issue with our kids being a bit too loud a while back, and I wanted to make sure that you haven't had any more problems. Please, if you could give me some feedback on what's OK and what's excessive, that's be really useful. It's difficult getting two very rambunctious kids to quiet down, but I've tried a few new approaches."

When I've had issues with noise, part of my dilemma is that after my initial talk with the neighbor, when things get loud again, I will sit and stew silently, letting my anger boil over because I don't like confrontation. If you approach your neighbors in a friendly way, and let them know that you are trying hard to be quieter and not deliberately ignoring their desires, you'll go a long way to improve neighbor relations.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 2:06 PM on June 17, 2011 [8 favorites]

In my experience, the worst "noise" is the kids running back and forth. Thump thump thump thump thump. Adults never run in an apartment, so it's just a foreign sound. And it tends to shake pictures on the wall and such that are worse than just noise.
posted by smackfu at 2:15 PM on June 17, 2011 [6 favorites]

As someone who used to live under an apartment with a toddler and now has one of my own, I'd suggest to try giving the neighbor some sense of control. Warn her that a certain level of noise is inevitable, but propose that some hours be quiet times. And don't assume what they should be, but let her choose (within reason).

In our case, it was unbearable to have the toddler running right over our bed at 7am on a Saturday or Sunday. If they could keep him out of that area until 9am, I didn't care what noise he made for the rest of the day. And being able to negotiate that with my neighbors took away all my resentment, because it felt like I'd had some say in the situation.

Good luck!! It's not easy to be on either side of this situation.
posted by queensb at 2:25 PM on June 17, 2011 [13 favorites]

I'm someone who's rather sensitive to noise and I live in an apartment complex where it's been an issue occasionally. There's reasonable noise levels that are just part of life and everybody has to live with and then there's stuff that's not cool.
I totally agree with all comments suggesting lots of friendly communication and general awareness.
Sometimes the sense that noisy neighbors are being thoughtless and/or don't care is in a weird way worse than the actual sound. (E.g.: one of my neighbors always tends to do dishes between midnight and 1am with the kitchen window open. Another past neighbor with 3 little kids was usually getting up and out of the house with the kids around 7am. He made no attempts to keep his kids quiet for the 10 minutes it'd take to shepherd them out of the apt complex. Worst one was one guy who always had phone conversations on speaker phone at 3am in the morning.)
But kids running around their home, laughing and screaming a few times during the day? That should be ok unless they're completely out of control constantly.
As has been said before, I'd make sure they quiet down after 7 or so when people have come back from work and want to relax. I'd also make sure they're quiet if they're up early in the morning before 8 or 9.
I'd also look at carpeting etc as has been mentioned above. If they tend to slam doors... get some little damper felt pads or something from your local hardware store. Mention this stuff to your neighbors so they know you care.
As a noise sensitive person I also appreciate when neighbors tell me or post a quick note on everybody's door when they're going to have a child's birthday or other party. That shows that they care about their neighbors and gives me and others the chance to change plans if needed.

If you make an effort and communicate with your neighbors in a friendly and respectful way that's all you can do. If the noise level isn't unreasonable and limited to reasonable times of the day they'll have to learn to live with that. If after all that they still complain... that's on them.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:39 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your kids need to be able to play freely in their bedrooms. Full stop.

It's hard to make specific suggestions without know about construction, flooring, which walls are shared, etc. However, the rugs and wall hanging suggestions are spot on. If dressers or other things that can slam touch the walls, make an inch of space. Also, add little felt "bumpers" to closet doors and all drawers.
posted by jbenben at 2:47 PM on June 17, 2011

I think preventing running in the house and up and down the stairs would go a long way towards neighborly peace.
posted by crankylex at 2:59 PM on June 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I have a toddler (21 mos) and a 3 and 5 year old. We used terms like "quiet feet" -- meaning walk more slowly, and even on tiptoe -- to help manage noise when the baby was sleeping.
Other helps:
- Felt or cork rounds on the feet of furniture
- knobs rather than hanging fixtures like rings on dressers (these rattle when a drawer gets opened and shut)
- more felt or shock absorbers on doors to help quiet the shutting sound
- rugs, rugs and rugs
- taking kids out and getting them VERY exercised before naptime and bedtime. This really means about 2 hours of hard physical play for us at the playground or pool.
- Keeping naptime or quiet time quiet -- my kids are allowed to sleep, read, color, play with felt boards or other quiet toys.
- Try for an early bedtime if that helps things.
- Kids will be kids, but one thing I've learned is that you can't parent from a sitting position or while working on the computer. Be with them and enforce rules rather than saying "now settle down, kids" while reading or watching something.
- sometimes kids get more rambunctious if they really want attention from you. Frontload time with them by reading or playing for 10-15 mins and then let them do their thing. They'll play better on their own that way, too.
posted by mdiskin at 3:03 PM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

I totally agree with most of the stuff above about rugs and whatnot. Things like that will help YOU as much as it does your neighbors. Long days with noisy toddlers often end with a splitting headache.

However, I also very much agree with lester and KokuRyu. Toddlerhood is a very special time that doesn't last very long. I'd bet that the loudest sounds coming from your kids are laughter and squees of pure joy. Those aren't things anyone should want to stop or hinder.

To back up what folks are mentioning about befriending your neighbors; our mean "old fart" neighbor quit complaining about anything when the kids (toddlers, both boys) and I started bringing over fresh baked cookies every once in a while.

I wish you good luck, but I don't think you need it!
posted by snsranch at 4:16 PM on June 17, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice and tips everyone has provided. We just moved in about 4 weeks ago, and we are still in the process of unpacking, hanging up photos etc etc. Buying more area rugs will definitely go on the top of my priority list next shopping trip.

We are usually up around 8 and out the house by 9:30-10am, and don't return till 12-1 that afternoon. We come home, eat lunch and the kids lay right down for a nap. We are never loud during what would be considered adult quiet time. The kids are on a very strict bed time routine, and always in bed by 7:30. I always make sure when she's home from work around 5pm, that we are eating dinner and doing something quiet or outdoors till bedtime.

When she came over to tell us to quiet down, it was 10:30am, which I think would be a decent time for noise. My husband was upstairs sleeping for the day, and even he said he never heard the kids.

I think like a few said above, she was used to having a little old lady next to her for quite a few years, and a family with kids is something new to her.

So thanks again for all the advice and I'm definitely going to do everything that was suggested!
posted by Sweetmag at 4:24 PM on June 17, 2011

I think kids will be kids. I'm one of seven siblings, and I spent my adolescence and high school years babysitting nephews and children of my parents' friends. Kids make noise, when they laugh, when they play, when they talk at unnecessary decibels, etc. I remember playing the screaming game (loudest & longest wins!) in our yard as a child, so hey, I probably deserve an adulthood full of child-induced unnecessary noise.

That being said, I've been on her side of the wall. Prior to buying our house, my boyfriend and I lived on the second floor of a three-story apartment building. It was a textbook example of why I'd resisted living in an actual apartment building my whole life, and the noise was the number one factor. (Prior to that, I'd lived in a house with my parents, on the top floor in the dorms at college, and then on the top floor in a number of houses converted to apartments.) In our apartment, below us was our garage. Above us was a family with three kids. It OFTEN sounded like a herd of elephants was passing through their apartment, or like they were playing soccer across the apartment — chasing a ball (or likely, each other) literally from one end of the apartment to the other end, from the bedrooms down the hall to the kitchen, and back, again and again and again and again. This happened at all hours of the day, but most frequently seemed to coincide with us wanting to watch television after work (and having to turn it up way louder to hear) or wanting to sleep in on the weekend. They also had a baby who liked to cry, which, I know, is what babies do, but the noise traveled and added to overall noise/agitation.

I didn't complain to our neighbors because we didn't want them to feel as you do, put out in their home. Instead, and I should be ashamed of this as it's very un-neighborly but it's the truth, I resented them and was annoyed by their very presence. I was glad to move out of the apartment largely so we no longer had to hear "Stompy McStomperson" (as my bf had dubbed the kids). I don't know if the parents just didn't consider or care that the noises would carry downstairs (because surely they realized there were tenets below), or if the ceilings were exceptionally thin (my boyfriend had dubbed the tenant before them "Ms. Squeaky Bed Syndrome," which I'm not sure I'd prefer!!). I didn't approach our upstairs neighbors because I didn't want to be *that* person. But I would have appreciated if they had expressed some concern or shown some restraint in allowing their children free run of the place at all hours. Living in a building with adjacent units, you expect a certain amount of noise. Heck, living in the suburbs I can still hear my neighbors — when their dogs bark, their kids shriek, their lawn mowers run, etc. However, minimizing the noise will improve neighborly relations. So will her accepting that some noise is acceptable and expected. You need to figure out together at what hours and what volume level is acceptable. If you just level with the lady, and acknowledge these facts, any reasonable person will work with you. She's going to have to accept it, ultimately, but it will go a long way toward neighborly relations just to show you understand her concerns.
posted by ilikemethisway at 5:00 PM on June 17, 2011

We have neighbors with kids living underneath us (it's a four-apartment building) and sometimes we're driven a bit crazy by the noise. Not the normal kid noise but things that seem more controllable--like the kids shrieking at the top of their lungs directly beneath our windows at eight in the morning, or banging over and over again on the metal doors that lead to the alley behind our house (also directly beneath our windows) at eight or nine in the morning.

In general, I find that even the slightest indication that the parents are making an effort to not let the kids be too loud mollifies us completely. it's only when we feel like they don't care that the might bother us that we get angry about it.
I think shushing the kids in the shared areas and reminding them about inside voices if they start shrieking and don't stop would probably be enough.
posted by smoakes at 6:54 PM on June 17, 2011

If the stairs are on a common wall definitely get a stair carpet. You could ask her which room she is in when she hears the noise, or in which room does noise bother her the most, or something, and find an inexpensive way to soundproof, or at least sound-lessen the common wall in that one room.
posted by mareli at 6:58 PM on June 17, 2011

Ha, likemethisway, we must be on the same wavelength because I named my upstairs neighbors last year Mr. and Mrs. Stompy McStomperon. They had a child who was a baby when they moved in, but who grew into a toddler, and her favorite place to play at 7am was the spot directly over our bed. Her favorite game? Drop the !@#$%^& blocks! For about a year I suffered from serious sleep deprivation because I wasn't able to sleep past 7am. The parents were just as bad worse.

Anyway, back to the question... I also believe that a certain level of noise is perfectly reasonable between agreed-upon times. Does your co-op have set rules about quiet times? If not, can you ask your neighbor about quiet times? (If you do this, I support the idea of going over with cookies and an open mind toward co-operating and compromising on agreed quiet times.) Setting and agreeing on that boundary will appease your neighbor and will give you a lot of freedom during the non-quiet times. "Good fences make good neighbors," as do good boundaries.
posted by bendy at 10:01 PM on June 17, 2011

Many years ago, I was the downstairs neighbor to a gentleman who snored. That's right, I could hear the man snore (if it was quiet). I could hear him take his 6am pee as well. That was awesome. I viewed this as a humorous bit of apartment idiosyncrasy because I surely wasn't going to complain about what amounted to a structural problem in the building.

Let your kids be kids. As those above me have said, maintain inside voices and such, but you should not be prisoners in your own home. Kids are a fact of life, and it is truly sad indeed that they cannot always be perfect little miniature adults. So, if your neighbors want an existence that does not include children in any way, they should probably move to a senior or retirement community and make sure their neighbors don't have grandkids that visit.
posted by LyndsayMW at 10:36 PM on June 17, 2011

I'm sorry, but you and your neighbors live in a townhouse, not a freestanding house in the country. A reasonable level of noise is to be expected, people living their lives makes noise. If you're not making ridiculous amount of noise before 8AM and after 11PM I think your neighbor is being unreasonable. Have some consideration, but let your kids be kids, it's your family's home.

Or what LyndsayMW said.

I am hypersensitive to this topic because we have a neighbor like yours, who seems to think that living in the suburbs should mean pastoral silence at all times, and it is making me miserable and stressed in my own home, don't be me.
posted by biscotti at 10:53 PM on June 17, 2011

i am super noise sensitive and also don't like kids and would hate living next to kids.

HOWEVER, if i were ever so unfortunate, i would also realize that 10.30am is a COMPLETELY REASONABLE time for kids to be making noise.

unreasonable times? well, for normal people that's probably about 10pm to 8am.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:49 PM on June 17, 2011

It's my observation that people are wary/territorial/nervous when they get new neighbors.

When we moved in to our place there were some warnings from both upstairs and downstairs neighbor about stuff like don't do X because it backs up the plumbing, etc., and some sort of obvious actions about claiming certain territories. Nothing big, but it was obvious they were sort of nervous. It all settled down quickly, though.

And lo and behold, now we are the ones who have been in this building the longest, and we were slightly on tenterhooks when both the apartments above us were recently rented ... would they be stompers? Loud music, loud TV, parties, fights? We held our breath. Also, we had to have conversations with them about being careful about the plumbing, careful to keep the front gate locked. Heh. But all is fine. Perfect, in fact. I think once you become The Sweetmag Neighbors, instead of The New Neighbors, things may be easier. Do as others have said, and keep the lines of communication open and friendly, show you are trying to accommodate reasonable expectations, and hopefully she'll settle down.

(You probably shouldn't try my best technique for dealing with a noise-complainer. We are very quiet... in fact, we even have a dog that never barks, and when I'm home alone, people who live here say they don't even know if I'm here. But one time someone was visiting my husband, and the guy had a pretty loud/carrying voice, and one of the neighbors actually came down to complain [it was midday on a weekend, sitting on our terrace]. I told her, He's a visitor; he's going to be here maybe an hour. I'm not going to tell him to shut up. And you know what? I think that 99% of the time we're pretty fucking quiet. Well. She and her boyfriend would have screaming, crockery-smashing, door-crashing fights about twice a month, so what the what? Anyway, she never complained again.)
posted by taz at 3:18 AM on June 18, 2011

The kids were playing in their rooms and running back and forth.

There you go. The running is the problem. Running is something for outside. Your kids should not be running inside, period. That endless thumping drives people crazy. Noise is one thing, but the sound/vibration of running inside an apartment/townhouse is really annoying and hard to ignore. Time of day is irrelevant; it rattles walls and windows. THere is no "reasonable" hour for running inside.
posted by spaltavian at 10:45 PM on June 18, 2011

Noise is one thing, but the sound/vibration of running inside an apartment/townhouse is really annoying and hard to ignore.

This is a good point. There are several kids living in our apartment building and I find that if they're in the parking lot they can run all they want and holler and shriek to a pretty decent level without it bothering me, even though the building is shaped like a U and so the noise they make down there is reflected and amplified up into our windows. But when they go running (thundering!) down the hall I find myself gritting my teeth and grumbling to my husband about "I don't want to be the pain-in-the-ass childless neighbor who has unreasonable expectations about kids being silent. But FFS I wish they would STOP RUNNING!!!"
posted by Lexica at 1:38 PM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older How to get out of the dead end?   |   grrrrr accounting! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.