Neighbor text
September 3, 2012 5:44 PM   Subscribe

I received this text from my neighbor this morning. I have owned my house for 7 years and think my neighbor should mind her own business.

We are friendly, exchange gifts on the holidays, etc, but this takes it a step too far.

Text that I received at 8am: Tip of the day from your 'green police' neighbor- please please don't put trash in the recycle bin! Junky old furniture def not recyclable and contaminants make it hard 4 city crews. They just may not pick up your can at all, but it looks really bad on street. If u need a bigger tarsh can u can order one, or figure out how to reduce your waste. Thx!"

What is an appropriate response? I had a wood chair in the bin and didn't know that was a problem. I don't want her poking around in my trash and my business.

posted by timpanogos to Human Relations (74 answers total)
Say thank you and maybe do a little research about your city's recycling and trash policies before you put things out on the curb. Don't think much more about it than that.
posted by sibboleth at 5:45 PM on September 3, 2012 [29 favorites]

"It creeps me out that you're going through my trash."
posted by matty at 5:47 PM on September 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Wait a day or so and text back with "thanks!" and nothing else. This will show that you find this kind of advice unwanted and don't value it very highly.

Please avoid the harsh response that your tone in this question suggests you wanted to write. If someone sees a chair sticking out of your curbside recycling bin, that is not "poking around" in your trash. There's a chair sticking out of your recycling bin.
posted by Nomyte at 5:49 PM on September 3, 2012 [73 favorites]

"Thanks for the tip - have a nice day!"
posted by hapax_legomenon at 5:49 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Annoying. If this is the first time she has said something like this, then a little less annoying.
Is she part of a neighborhood organization?
I personally would respond with "okay".

How did you fit a chair in a recycling bin anyway? And has it been there for several days?
posted by KogeLiz at 5:51 PM on September 3, 2012

posted by The World Famous at 5:52 PM on September 3, 2012

Just ignore this and move on.
posted by dfriedman at 5:52 PM on September 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

Well, it is not your trash once you place it out for collection.

As for your response, reply, "I have printed several copies of your helpful message to place about the house as reminders."
posted by Tanizaki at 5:52 PM on September 3, 2012 [10 favorites]

Don't respond at all. But, do determine if you need to change how you're doing trash things.
posted by HuronBob at 5:53 PM on September 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

It's your neighbor. You will have to live next door to her indefinitely. Don't escalate this. Read her text in the most positive way you can, and respond accordingly, or as others have wisely suggested, with a very brief message.
To me, it sounds like she was trying to get her message across (whether or not it was an appropriate message is another issue) in the friendliest way possible.
Wait until you're not feeling as emotional about it to respond.
posted by newpotato at 5:53 PM on September 3, 2012 [34 favorites]

The chair was probably obvious without the neighbor needing to poke around the recycle bin.

This type text is not a habit, right? It sounds like this is a one time circumstance and you can let it go unless meddling becomes a habit. Especially if neighborly relations have been pleasant in the past, it's to your benefit to not mind the small stuff. Horror stories have been written about BAD neighbors.
posted by mightshould at 5:55 PM on September 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'd let it go this time because I think she was genuinely trying to be helpful and probably wasn't being nosy.

If you get texts about other stuff, particularly with frequency, regarding stuff that has nothing to do with municipal services, and/or with the same sort of self-deprecating-but-not-really joke about "green police", it's time to come up with a snarky response.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:55 PM on September 3, 2012

Wait a day or so and text back with "thanks!" and nothing else. This will show that you find this kind of advice unwanted and don't value it very highly.

This. A one word response (Thanks, or OK, or similar) avoids escalating what was probably meant to be helpful (but overly intrusive) into actual conflict. There's nothing to be gained by having an argument with a neighbor, and a lot to be gained by keeping things friendly.

I've let neighbors know similar things and vice versa, and although it's sometimes momentarily odd to realize that multiple people really are noticing what I put out in the trash, and what I do with my lawn, overall that's a good thing and is part of what makes it a neighborhood.
posted by Forktine at 5:56 PM on September 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

She was being annoying, but we all have the annoying nosy neighbor. I mean it's like a cliche at this point. We've all been there. Delete the text, follow its advice, and the next time she has some helpful tip based on you leaving a candle lit in the window or something, is when you check her so that she gets the point. The notice is fine, but the way she worded it is obnoxious.
posted by cashman at 5:56 PM on September 3, 2012

The appropriate response is no response. If she follows up, "Thanks for the tip. Have a good one."

My parents have fought a 20-year war with the next-door neighbor about where trash cans are placed on the sidewalk for pick up. Both sides are insane and refuse to back down. Police have been involved. If there were a fire in either house, neither side would call 911.

There are better hills to die on.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:00 PM on September 3, 2012 [27 favorites]

Did the trash collectors take the chair? If so, there's no problem. And hey - everyone's trash looks bad out on the street. I'd ignore it for now but if the neighbor brought it up again I'd point this out - the collectors thought it was fine, so it sure must be... and really, they're the only ones who need to be concerned about it!
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:02 PM on September 3, 2012

I understand the desire to make a snarky response, but I think that in a case like this your best response is NO response..... total silence, just ignoring the whole thing.

Oh sure, your neighbor was out of line: your trash is certainly NOT any of her business.... the ONLY people allowed to comment on your trash ('this is recycling, this is not') are the guys picking it up. But since she IS your neighbor, your life will be far better without starting a fight. If she brings up the subject in the future, leave it with a cold, flat "thank you for your interest" and move on.
posted by easily confused at 6:06 PM on September 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

I personally don't like thanking people for unsolicited advice, even if the thanks is offered out of civility rather than genuine gratitude. I'd go with, "How interesting!"

Granted, I'm sure you don't actually find this interesting, just as you (understandably) aren't feeling particularly grateful to have received her tip. This is merely my personal preference as far as insincerely polite replies go.
posted by pecanpies at 6:06 PM on September 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

the best reply is "thanks for letting me know". there's no reason to start drama especially since your neighbor's text, while written with an annoying tone and a littleoverly-nosy, was somewhat reasonable in content.

Also, you wouldn't really have to "poke around" much to see a chair in the trash.
posted by bearette at 6:06 PM on September 3, 2012 [8 favorites]

Did they take the chair? This is the key element to me. If they didn't take the chair, then it could be an issue because who wants stray chairs on the sidewalk, but if they took the chair she's being intrusive.

One of my former bosses used to say "Message received" when someone had imparted irrelevant information to her.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:08 PM on September 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

She could simply be very concerned about recycling. I am. I wouldn't bother to try convincing my neighbors to be the same, but a chair doesn't recycle. She was possibly trying to help.
posted by scratch at 6:09 PM on September 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

Unless there's more to this story than you're letting on, you're overreacting and should probably consider the possibility that you are, in fact, putting something in the recycle bin that needs to be disposed of in a different manner. Let your ire subside, then text her and say, "Okay. Will consider that in the future."
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:12 PM on September 3, 2012 [21 favorites]

"Hey neighbor, sorry I spoiled your view this morning. I'll have to get with you if I ever feel the need to reduce my waste. I think you might have some tips for me since you're the green police and all."


"Thanks so much."
posted by Fairchild at 6:13 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here in NYC, I believe they simply crush the glass bottles before adding them back with the other trash. My sister was elected alderman of her Boston suburb on a recycling platform, despite full knowledge that no meaningful recycling was likely to happen. She saw it as a more general community-building activity, that might have fruit in the future.

So, yes, "hey thanks for the tip!" Then burn future chairs as kindling in your energy conserving wood stove.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:13 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I actually once got fined for improperly sorting my recycling. Definitely made me appreciate my old super more.

Anyway, annoying but harmless is my vote. Don't escalate, and don't respond if you can't help yourself from being snarky. This is not worth souring your relationship with neighbor.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:15 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Don't forget... she is right. My policy for correct but unsolicited and/or annoying advice is to quietly heed it without thanks or acknowledgment to the giver.
posted by orange swan at 6:17 PM on September 3, 2012 [10 favorites]

If you hadn't put trash in the recycling bin, your neighbor wouldn't have had to write you a note. Your neighbor is the one who is doing the right thing here.
posted by w0mbat at 6:18 PM on September 3, 2012 [18 favorites]

Personally I think spelling "you" as "u" looks far worse than leaving a chair out on the street, but that's just me.

You've lived here for years. How long have you been neighbors with this woman? If this is the problem, I'd just forget about this incident. Also, she may be right.
posted by grouse at 6:20 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'd rather get a mildly annoying text than get fined for putting non-recyclables in the recycling bin or leaving bulk trash out on a non-bulk-pickup day (your jurisdiction may vary). Let it go unless you want to encourage ongoing bad feelings, which you don't gain anything by.
posted by rtha at 6:28 PM on September 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'd probably ignore it, but if you feel compelled to reply, I'd go with:

posted by backwards guitar at 6:31 PM on September 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

Annoyingly worded, but a reply of 'thanks!' is sufficient. You don't have to actually be thankful to send that. Don't worry. She did not text you out of malice. Let it ride...
posted by amicamentis at 6:47 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

She is saying "green police" as a way of apologizing in advance for being a little bossy. It is self-deprecating.

Texts are a very bad way of communicating neighborly values.

She's your neighbor. You've been friendly. I think the best thing to do would be to stop with the texts, and go over there and chat about something else. She will probably apologize for the text. And if not, you can mention that you didn't know the chair wasn't recyclable.

After all, wood is not, in fact, recyclable. Is it possible you are so upset because you know you were wrong?

It's irrelevant whether the city took it away. They take lots of stuff away that isn't recycling. It puts a burden on the recycling people.

I think she was trying to be helpful, and even neighborly. Why not treat her like a human being instead of as a nuisance? You will likely continue to have good relations with your neighbor. Get all snippy, and you'll pay for it later.
posted by musofire at 6:47 PM on September 3, 2012 [51 favorites]

I wouldn't assume she is correct - in some cities furniture is recyclable depending on the materials.

In any case, I don't think it matters whether she is "right" or not, it isn't really any of her business. The one word answer is absolutely the right thing to communicate "I don't agree, but I am not going to fight with you about it." I'd go with "OK" or "Thanks" after a day or two and then just forget it.
posted by Sockowocky at 6:48 PM on September 3, 2012

I don't want her poking around in my trash and my business.

I was on the neighbor's side until I read this. Appropriate response? Text back, tell her to stop poking through your trash and to please never contact you again. Poking through a neighbor's trash is creepy and stalkerish and an outright violation of, well, everything.
posted by ftm at 6:56 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seems to me that her information was of value but her communication skills are poor (and that doesn't necessarily mean she's an awful person). So I think in this case a simple "Thanks, understood" or something like that would suffice.
posted by Dansaman at 6:56 PM on September 3, 2012

One more vote for "I'm not sure what's wrong with what your neighbor did." I left a big heap of yard waste in front of my house because I wrongly thought the city would pick it up. My neighbor knocked on my door and let me know, and I thanked her. It never occured to me to prickle and say "how dare you notice a big pile of branches on the curb next door to your house -- you should have let me just figure out myself after a day or two that the city wasn't going to pick it up."
posted by escabeche at 6:59 PM on September 3, 2012 [12 favorites]

She's not spying on you, she is being bossy, but it's not malicious. Don't ruin your relationship over this. I wouldn't reply at all - but I would consider changing the way I throw out my trash.
posted by Dasein at 6:59 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

It seems to me she was trying to help you so your non-recyclable trash wouldn't be rejected by the pickup crew. It was nice of her to let you know. It would be a drag for you if the crew refused to take your bin's content.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 7:12 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

whether she is "right" or not, it isn't really any of her business

It would be her business if there were a chair sitting out on the sidewalk because it had been refused by the trash collectors, or if the whole recycling bin had been refused by the trash collectors because of the chair, and then paper or whatever had blown onto her lawn.

I myself would probably wait to see what happened and let the trash collectors be the enforcers of their own policies, though.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:13 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would not reply to her text at all. If she brings it up the next time you are chatting in a neighborly way, fine, but I think sending someone a text at 8am is overly familiar and I would want to discourage it. I like my neighbors but I don't want my personal phone number used as a BBS for non-emergencies when I'm getting ready for work.
posted by headnsouth at 7:32 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

yea, that's pretty annoying, but living around other humans is annoying sometimes. The thing is, as your neghbour, she will probably be part of your life for a long time. I find silliness is a good way to deal with people

text back

The green police!
they come for me and my chair
the green police!
they tell me what to put where...
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:40 PM on September 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

Knocking on a door is one thing- you could gauge someone's demeanor & see if their intentions are friendly. If so, you would probably appreciate the information & move on. A text is another thing- it seems more passive aggressive to send advice in that context, you can't get any feel for if the other person is trying to be helpful or not. She is your neighbor for crying out loud, she could have come by & told you in person.

I would be none to happy to have received a text like that, it falls into the territory of not minding your own business if handled that way to me (it was "a" chair, not a whole pile heap. A quick in person conversation would have been acceptable). You didn't know, an honest mistake. It doesn't seem like your being reckless with your trash, the comment about "finding a way to lessen your trash outtake", sounds very over the line to me. It just seems rude.

I would not feel warmly to it, if she feels she can delve out advice on this she might feel like it's her business to send you a text on other things he might not feel is pleasing to her.

I wouldn't take it too harsh as it was only one incident, but I would be weary of future occurrences. I would send a text saying that your not open to unsolicited advice. Or better yet, walk over to her & nicely thank her for the comment, & tell her that in the future if she has anything she wants to discuss with you to stop by your house & talk. This would take out the element of misreading cues that texts seem to generate, and also could eliminate the chance of future advice if by chance she turns out to be the passive aggressive type.

If another text comes your way in the future, rinse & repeat.
posted by readygo at 7:40 PM on September 3, 2012

As satisfying as a snarky response would be (and OH MY GOD, it would be GLORIOUS), just ignore her message. It's really none of her business, she's not The Boss Of You, and it doesn't rate a response.
posted by Aquifer at 7:46 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I forgot to add that with talking in person, she'll know that sending a text with advice, will equate to a real life conversation with you- a friendly conversation, but maybe not what she wants if she feels the need to text you this stuff.
posted by readygo at 7:47 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Agreeing wholeheartedly that you should put your annoyance to the side about this. I wouldn't respond at all.

I'm actually quite sympathetic to your neighbor here. I can imagine a parallel universe where there's an AskMe that says "I have been neighbors with someone for 7 years. I think they're really great, but today I noticed they were throwing away furniture in their garbage. I'm really environmentally conscious and this upsets me. They may not even know that this isn't a good idea. How can I communicate this to them?"

If they did have the Hivemind to draw on, no doubt they could have come up with a less offputting manner of communicating this, though.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:51 PM on September 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

To me, this is rude as hell. An 8 am text message indicates dire circumstances, and well-meant recycling tips are not an emergency.

That said, nobody wants a damn neighbor war over the recycling. Just text back a simple 'thanks' and maybe next time you chat in person you can tell her you're not on a text plan. With any luck that might forestall any additional 'helpfulness'.

Good luck.
posted by Space Kitty at 7:54 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I admire all of you who are able to overlook the tone, but I don't think I could. Call me sensitive, but somebody texting something like "Just fyi, they probably won't pick up your chair in the bin like that, it needs to be separated, thought you'd want to know before they arrive' is helpful, while somebody calling my old furniture "junky," suggesting that a trash pile awaiting pickup "looks really bad" (duh, it's trash), and advising me to figure out how to reduce my waste goes beyond helpful and well into classic self-righteous busybody.

I'm definitely in the 'message received' or 'noted' camp on this one. Smile and wave as usual, but don't do anything about it unless the trash crew doesn't pick up.

I do agree that there are clearly local requirements for pickup that you don't know, and certainly you should look things like that up whenever you dispose of anything unusual.Having lived in a lot of towns I've been amazed at how much the small vagaries of recycling, trash, and bulk waste vary from town to town. As a homeowner, that's a category of information you should know. But I wouldn't want to do a damn thing to reinforce the 'green police' behavior of the neighbor, as I think a 'thanks' or any similar positive response would. that sort of interaction is something i'd be eager to shut down.

sorry about the lack of caps, my keyboard's screwed up.
posted by Miko at 8:16 PM on September 3, 2012 [13 favorites]

"Thanks and you can always tell me this kind of thing in person"

I think this does a few things for you: 1) acknowledges your more-than-just-strangers neighbor relationship, 2) discourages her from sending further annoying texts about the chair (or anything in the future) and therefore 3) forces her to decide if it's worth an awkward face-to-face conversation next time she puts on her Green Police hat.
posted by juliplease at 8:20 PM on September 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

She's trying to be funny and helpful. I've lived with neighbors who didn't give a crap, and I've lived with neighbors who care about the block. I'll take the latter any day.

Taking the most generous reading, which you might as well do, she's caring about you (you might get fined), the workers, the environment, your neighborhood, and your property values. I would reply with "Thanks!" and I would mean it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:33 PM on September 3, 2012 [9 favorites]

The alt weekly here just did a story on recycling crews: "many residents don't realize the ramifications of putting garbage and other waste in recycling bins." I wouldn't appreciate the comment either, but I'd take it in the best way you can.

I'd probably say "thanks," "learn something new every day" or "okay, see you soon." But since you really don't want to encourage this behavior, then ignoring it is probably the best thing to do.
posted by slidell at 8:55 PM on September 3, 2012

Sorry, I'll leave it on your porch next time for you to deal with since you know best. I'm just so clueless sometimes. HaHa <--- make sure not to forget that. and maybe a wink wink at the end.
posted by udon at 9:28 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best bet is to ignore it and be a bit chilly with the neighbor for a few weeks. No need to escalate or acknowledge.

In all likelihood I'd have a really hard time ignoring it. I'd send some sort of emotion gibberish just to confuse her. //o-o\\ is \VVV/. (translate: John Lennon is king).
posted by 26.2 at 9:54 PM on September 3, 2012

Where I live, we can be fined for improper waste disposal – the city will overlook a mistake here and there, but if it's repeated you get dinged. Your neighbor could be more helpful than you've assumed – have you checked into fines and such?

Also, if the chair was no longer there, I would not assume it was recycled by the city, considering that's how I have obtained several chairs (but they were in the furniture disposal pickup area on designated days, not in recycling).

As for the tone, it does sound like she was trying to be jokey, though there is also the details-oriented "seen this often" side that can be interpreted as a bit overbearing if you haven't lived there for long. (There are a lot of people who park their motorized scooters on the sidewalk on my street. At first it wasn't too annoying, but on days when you can't get your groceries past one, it starts to grate, and then when they pull up behind you and rev their engines, well, you start to move past "minor annoyance" into "I realize you may not know this what with others doing the same thing, but your scooter is a vehicle and thus should be parked in the designated motorbike parking area, not chained to the iron grilles on our apartment building windows" even with people who've just arrived. This is how the cranky old people stereotype is born. Experience.)
posted by fraula at 12:13 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sweet jeebus, these responses have suddenly made me terrified about ever contacting my neighbours. Tone is super-hard to communicate via text; I'd put a vote behind "thanks, and you can always talk to me in person behind this kind of thing."

I think it's super not worth ruining relations with your neighbour just for the satisfaction of sending a bitey text, no matter how strongly you feel about your long-earned right to throw whole pieces of furniture in your recycling.
posted by ominous_paws at 2:53 AM on September 4, 2012 [12 favorites]

By the way, I realized that my previous answer didn't actually answer the question of what to do. Well, here's the good news -- whether you feel as many do that your neighbor is being an annoying busybody, or as I do, that she's just trying to be helpful, a simple "Thanks!" is the appropriate response.
posted by escabeche at 5:45 AM on September 4, 2012

I don't understand why people are freaking out that she sent the the text at 8 am- before the garbage pickup arrives (in my neighbpurhood anyways). She probably just wanted to make sure you got the message in time. And she probably sent a text because, you know, it was 8 o'clock in the frigging morning and she's not going to run over in her pajamas and knock on the door to start a conversation about something so trivial. A text is the least-intrusive, easiest and most casual kind of communication.

I don't think she was being rude or nosy or even being a busybody; she was being neighbourly. It's not like she was digging through the trash; I'm sure the chair was clearly visible from the window. Truthfully, I don't understand the strength of your reaction, unless this kind of thing happens regularly.

Nthing that you should let this slide, and maybe spend some more facetime with her.
posted by windykites at 7:19 AM on September 4, 2012 [11 favorites]

A text is the least-intrusive, easiest and most casual kind of communication.

Clearly, based on the varied answers in this thread, that is a subjective opinion. I personally disagree quite strongly with it and it appears the OP does too. I find texts quite intrusive, as there's no repository for it. No email that you can be oblivious to until you check it, no voicemail that you can ignore until you have time. When someone sends a text, it's right there. In your bedroom at 3 a.m. because your phone is also your alarm clock, or in the quiet early-morning kitchen disturbing the only time of day you have all to yourself, or late at night when you are just starting to worry if your newly-licensed son is driving too fast and about to wreck the car. A text demands an immediate response because it's there, in its entirety, with no filter.

If somebody sends me a text before the day starts, there better be a good reason for it because I'm going to pounce on my phone as though there is. And if it ends up being a text from Gladys Kravitz telling me that my garbage makes the neighborhood look bad, then I'll be pissed. Not because she cares about recycling; I care about recycling too. But because with a text, she expects me to see it and respond to it immediately (before the garbage guys get there).

So yeah, I definitely would ignore her text, because to me, if it's too early to call and it's too early to knock on my door, it's too early to text.
posted by headnsouth at 7:35 AM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Would agree with windykites other than these lines: "It looks really bad on street", and " If u need a bigger trash can u can order one, or figure out how to reduce your waste. Thx!"

She doesn't mention anywhere in the text that you could be fined for it, only that they "might" not pick up the garbage. Sounds like she's more concerned about how it looks to have a chair on the street than being concerned about her neighbor having to pay a fine. That's how it sounds to me from what she wrote. Also the OP sounds upset about it, a build up of resentment between neighbors isn't exactly a positive thing, in person communication can help keep the air clear. Hopefully it's a one time incident anyway & no further future misunderstandings or problems occur.
posted by readygo at 7:48 AM on September 4, 2012

Wow, you are thin skinned.

My neighbor and I are on opposite sides of the city/county services line. She has city services and she can leave a pile of leaves on the street and the city will take them. I'm on the county side and I have to bag mine.

I have a Landscaper who does this stuff for me, and she was unfamiliar with the difference and left a pile. My neighbor pointed it out to me, which I appreciated, since I paid zero attention to that stuff. I got a bag, and took care of it.

You are not an island, you live in a neighborhood. Your kind neighbor told you something you clearly didn't know. Say thanks, and file the info away for the next time.

The End.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:14 AM on September 4, 2012 [9 favorites]

> I don't think she was being rude or nosy or even being a busybody; she was being neighbourly. It's not like she was digging through the trash; I'm sure the chair was clearly visible from the window. Truthfully, I don't understand the strength of your reaction, unless this kind of thing happens regularly.

I completely agree with this, and also don't understand all the people in the thread who are going YES THIS NEIGHBOR SUX BUT YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN'T BE TOO SNARKY THOUGH IT WOULD BE FUN AND TOTALLY JUSTIFIED! She was trying to be helpful, and if you can't take it in that spirit it is you who are the bad neighbor. If you can't bring yourself to say "thanks," for god's sake don't say or do anything that makes you look like a jerk.
posted by languagehat at 8:19 AM on September 4, 2012 [10 favorites]

Count me in as thinking that "it looks really bad" and "figure out how to reduce your waste" are hella bossy and obnoxious. I would probably go with "noted" or nothing at all.
posted by naoko at 8:33 AM on September 4, 2012

1) Get her a sheriff's star for the next major holiday.
2) Paint it green.
3) Laugh together.
posted by jph at 9:22 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

" If u need a bigger trash can u can order one, or figure out how to reduce your waste. Thx!"

Is actually pretty rude. I would ignore the text and go with the "firm but polite method":

Neighbor: You sorted your trash improperly.

You: If there is a problem with my trash, I'm sure that the garbage men will notify me.

Neighbor: but...

You: If there is a problem with my trash, I'm sure that the garbage men will notify me.

Neighbor: They may not....

You: If there is a problem with my trash, I'm sure that the garbage men will notify me.

I have had much success with firmly, yet in a polite tone of voice, repeating my stance verbatim. It gets the point across that my business or opinion is not open for argument or discussion, and that I am not avalible for "venting" over pettiness. Also, it discourages people from bothering me with trivial concerns as the "polite yet firm" tone conveys that their efforts won't affect my option or action.

The most important part is to not elaborate or deviate from your chosen script. Politely give the apperiance that a decision has been made that your neighbor is not associated with and will not be able to alter no matter what she says.
posted by Shouraku at 9:44 AM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

" If u need a bigger trash can u can order one, or figure out how to reduce your waste. Thx!" Is actually pretty rude.


I would not reply, even with a single word, to this neighbor.

If you say 'thanks' to her, she may interpret that as permission to scold you further, and you don't want that.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:51 AM on September 4, 2012

Poorly worded but well meaning. Take her advice, and let it go.
posted by radioamy at 10:09 AM on September 4, 2012

Ignore the text. It might be tempting to send a snarky response, but you do have to live next to this person. I advise letting it go.
posted by John Farrier at 10:39 AM on September 4, 2012

Do nothing.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:51 AM on September 4, 2012

Very, very rude text from your neighbor! I also live next to a neighbor who knows all, sees all, and advises all, so I feel your pain.

I wouldn't even respond to it, unless you're moving sometime soon.
posted by DianaV at 10:54 AM on September 4, 2012

There's an interesting resonance with this AskMe.

Yes, to many people this appears "thin skinned." To many others it appears pushy. For answerers, I think the main lesson here is that people have very different standards for privacy and for interactions with neighbors. Where you might feel like you're being helpful, your neighbor may well perceive it as intrusive. It's just a fact of life - this behavior isn't perceived neutrally or positively by a certain number of people, and that may be for a good set of reasons and isn't always due to that person being oversensitive.

Many people become homeowners precisely because they look forward to having more individual control and freedom on their own property. Many have had really rotten interactions with neighbors who overstepped their boundaries and want to prevent that type of relationship taking hold again. I see a number of people are surprised that the OP and others find the way this was expressed to be irritiating, but I think that if recognizing that this is a possible outcome of such an interaction helps anyone frame communications intended to be friendly and helpful in ways that honestly don't seek to give offense or establish superiority, and are considerately worded and delivered in the honest spirit of being helpful, that's to the positive.

If the neighbor here's intentions were helpful, great. The most benign possible reading I can give this is that she comes from a sincere place of wanting to help, and may just not know how grating many people find her approach. I still think that argues for a response that makes clear this communication style isn't a welcome one.
posted by Miko at 11:29 AM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Let me take a different tack than most of these answers:

Seven years and this was the first text you've received from her? Maybe she was just in a bad mood that morning.

"One Strike You're Out" policies don't help anyone at all. Send a thanks, don't send a thanks, it doesn't really matter. But definitely wait for the second time this happens before making this anything but That One Time The Neighbor Sent A Weird Text.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:42 PM on September 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Er, sorry, I meant resonance with this AskMe.

The tough part of the whole thing is that, except in especially tightly-knit neighborhoods which haven't been the norm in my experience, our neighbors just don't usually know us well enough - nor do we know our neighbors well enough - to know their triggers, their fears, their pressures, their concerns, their habits, their communication styles. Probably best to assume the best intentions while maintaining boundaries that are comfortable, and see what happens going forward.
posted by Miko at 2:13 PM on September 4, 2012

I agree that the wording on the message comes off as rude, but I do sympathize with your neighbor a bit. People putting trash in the recycling bin is one of my hugest frustrations. I know there are a lot of people out there who think recycling is a waste of time, or whatever, but to me, it's very important, and when people thoughtlessly throw trash in the recycling bin then it ruins the recycling for everyone else, because the trash makes it that much harder for the recyclable stuff to get sorted out and actually recycled. Also, what I've heard (unsure if true or not, but suspect is true in at least some cases) is that if there's trash in the bin, all the other recyclables just get trashed, because that takes less time and energy for the recycling folks than sorting stuff out.

This kills me because I am the sort of person who will carry an empty aluminum can on a 10 mile walk or tote it around in my bag for days so that it can get recycled. I realize this might be viewed as pathological, and I would never text a neighbor at 8am about it, but I have contemplated leaving notes for people in similar circumstances before and just wanted to point out that for some people like me, this is a thing, and if you have a thing like that which is a small thing but it really burns you (don't we all have things like that?), please have mercy on this woman.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:50 PM on September 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I put out what turned out to be a too-heavy yard-waste recycle bin. The recycle guys came, evidently felt how heavy it was, and left it. I, not knowing there was a maximum weight, thought they must have missed it and put out the identical can the following month. Again, it wasn't picked up. Finally I went searching on the net and stumbled upon the maximum weight thing.

I would have loved—loved—one of my neighbors to clue me in about that so I didn't waste two months trying to get rid of a bunch of leaves.
posted by blueberry at 12:09 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sockowocky: "In any case, I don't think it matters whether she is "right" or not, it isn't really any of her business. The one word answer is absolutely the right thing to communicate "I don't agree, but I am not going to fight with you about it." I'd go with "OK" or "Thanks" after a day or two and then just forget it."

This refrain keeps being trotted out, as if what people choose to do out in public should never be commented on, as if advice, especially unsolicited, is always to be looked on in contempt or something.

Has she done nothing else to earn your ire? Is this it? If so I would let it go. She saw a piece of chair sticking up out of your bin. She assumed you didn't know this was a crappy thing to do and is letting you know this.

Is this another case of the Ask/Guess crowd, where it is unthinkable to tell another person, who is not even a stranger, that there is something wrong with what they are doing -- and to do it in an entirely non-judgmental and self-deprecating way?
posted by Deathalicious at 1:03 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

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