My Creepy, Nosy Neighbor Won’t Leave Me Alone

dear mamas,

i have a neighbor who i keep trying to avoid. i do not agree with any part of her parenting style and she keeps asking to get together for a playdate. her house is filthy, her children are always in dirty clothes and one of them always has a snotty nose. i do not want my children playing in her house nor do i want her children touching all of our toys.

i know what would happen to if we had a play date. she would ask if she could leave her (2) year old with me so she could go pick up her other kids from school or after school activities and then offer to watch mine in exchange. not in a million years would i allow her to watch them.

when she hears us playing in our backyard, she yells over the fence asking if we want to play. i feel like we can’t even play in our yard without having to avoid yet another playdate offer. is there a nice way i could put it to her?

she is very nice and lives right next door, so i don’t want to hurt feelings or create bad blood. any advice???


Dear Tamara,
Being stuck with a bad neighbor is definitely a drag, but it crops up whether kids are involved or not. It’s one of those things though, that you must learn to handle a.s.a.p. if you want to feel content and in-charge in your life. Over the years, I’ve seen some ugly stuff happen when neighbors, who started out as friends, had a falling out, and then couldn’t stand to look at each other. Worse was when their kids (who played together as babies) had to lose their friendships when the parents went in totally different directions. STICKY and often hard on the kids.

Although you say your neighbor is a nice person, your concerns are obvious, and I applaud you for trusting your gut about whether she would be a good influence or trustworthy caretaker for your kids. It sounds like you already have her number and know what you want to do, but are afraid of being mean.

One of the most liberating aspects of being a mother is realizing that you must put the welfare of your children first, and that gives you the strength to follow through with your convictions, even if you’re normally the shy type. Think Mother Bear protecting her cubs! If you know in your heart that you don’t want her influence operating in your life, or the lives of your children, then your task becomes easier.

So, next time you see her coming, you give her a quick wave and get out of there. Continue to opt out of invitations — politely but firmly — without a lot of explanation. You do not engage HER in conversation and when she leans over the back fence you keep doing what you were already doing. Yes, you smile and say hello back, but leave it at that. And if she doesn’t take the hint, make an excuse and go inside.

If you keep this up, always being polite, but brief, and NEVER accepting her invitations, she will eventually get the message. In the future, take new relationships with neighbors very slowly. The old Robert Frost poem about good fences making good neighbors is true. It’s not that you want to be rude, cold, unfriendly or unneighborly, it’s just that you have nowhere to hide if you live next door, and things get weird.

So make your new policy to be a kind, considerate, but distant neighbor with this one, and leave it at that. Good luck!!

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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12 responses to “My Creepy, Nosy Neighbor Won’t Leave Me Alone”

  1. Madeleine

    I think your advice here was good, but I have a different issue. We, too, live next to really nice neighbors – but they have never had jobs (both are on SSI checks and have been since young adulthood) and do not understand that we have time budgets. I go to grad school FT while caring for a 3rd grader, after having spent a career of 50-60 hour weeks in the workplace. My husband took early retirement at 50 but works PT and we have spent our entire lives looking foward to the time that we could spend time together without him being overseas. And by “together” I mean just the two of us and our children, one of whom is still at home.

    Meanwhile, re grad school, I’m also tired and I want privacy. My neighbor, her husband, and her children come over whenever they wish, sometimes together and sometimes several times a day, uninvited. My husband and can’t even have breakfast on the porch alone at 7 am without them “dropping by”. Today I was up at 7 am to write a paper and by 8 am the neighbor was here, staying until 10:30, no matter how many times I would get up and go into the kitchen and say, “Well, I really need to get back to work…”. They just remain in the yard or on the porch – it’s wierd.

    These are honest and good people – they just appear to be bored with their own lives and like hanging out with us. I’m glad they like us, but we can’t figure out how to tell them that we are busy and even when we aren’t, we want to be left alone to read or talk or play with our own child. I think part of the problem is that they seem to feel the need to be constantly entertained and cannot understand that for me, just reading a book for school is a necessity or sometimes a luxury. If I try to avoid them by going into my back yard, they come through the side yard and come there; if I go into the house, they knock at all doors so that I feel I have to hide in my own house.

    Obviously I need to set limits, but no amount of direct statements about school or work seems to help. Even my 8 yr old knows to allow Mommy privacy for at least a few hours a night when I study, and she doesn’t seem to feel offended by this. Honestly, I have never encountered anything like this (we just bought this house last year) but they are such kind-hearted people that we are afraid that if we are just mean they will be crushed. Has anybody else had this problem? It’s kindof like having relatives who won’t go home…feels like that, anyway. I am at my wit’s end about how to handle this, because I am working on my thesis now and every hour or so one of them – or all of them – will show up, interrupting my train of thought even if I don’t come outside to talk. They have even taken to peering inside the windows if I won’t answer the door when they know I am home. What causes otherwise nice people to be so callous about my privacy issues when I have told them, time and time again, that I have to put in about 6-8 hours a day on my schoolwork and when my child and husband are home, I need to spend time with them?

    Anybody got any ideas out there?

  2. Patricia

    I can’t imagine what you’re going through however, I think the answer I’m about to give is the correct one. These neighbors are clearly over stepping the boundaries that you would Ideally like them to follow so, this is what you should do.

    Tell them that anytime they would like to come over, they must CALL FIRST !!! I do this in my personal life and it ensures that when I want my personal time..I have it !! Many times people overstep because they simply don’t understand of even know, or can’t take a hint. The call first method is awesome because they will not come over unannounced anyjmore.

    If they for some reason come over unannounced open the door and tell them, Please call me before you come over, remind them that this is a common courtesy that they must adhere to because you are neighbors.

    They will ask Why? Why can’t we keep the same set up as we’ve always had ? Tell them it simply doesn’t work for you at this time in your life and they really need to RESPECT your privacy. This is a matter of Respect. Try your best to get it through and if it doesn’t work ou t the way you had hoped for, try again but maybe in a little more stern tone of voice.

    Good luck.

  3. Jean

    I have had the similar situation as above. Our neighbors would ALWAYS come over unannounced and my 5 year old son would have meltdowns if I didn’t let him play with their son because it was not a good time etc. So I FINALLY lost it with the Mom and said, “please call first before you come over”. So now we have a new problem. If we are having a playdate with another neighbor (or a friend not from the neighborhood) she calls. She keeps calling until I answer! Like repeatedly! 3-4 times in a row! If I am in the middle of a conversation with the Mom, I feel it’s rude to answer the phone! And quite frankly, I don’t want to answer! So now this annoying neighbor is continuing to do this. And says things like “Ben wanted to know if your son can play”. My question is, if my son has another neighborhood friend over am I obliged to let her son come over as well? I hate to be rude, but often times she (the Mom) will come with the son and interrupt the nice conversation I am having with the other mom. I am at my wits end with these people! They are completely socially inept and it’s driving me nuts! So do I now have to say, “you may call once and if I don’t answer, I am busy….please don’t continue to ring my phone”. It seems quite obvious, but these people just DON’T get it! UGH!!!!

    On another note….both parents are PhD’s so they are intelligent people, but like I said “socially” inept. Truly a very bad combination. We really have nothing in common with the exception that our sons are the same age. And what makes matters worse is we live in a neighborhood were we a live very close together and their front door is directly across the street from mine and they can clearly see if we are home etc. I am about this close to putting a sign out that says, we are not currently available!!!!

    Thanks for letting me vent!

  4. Joanne

    It seems such a shame that people cannot simply be courtious anymore. Popping by on the offchance that a friend is there is one thing, but it seems like the neighbours are simply smothering you all. I would have the mother(s) over and speak to her frankly, saying something like “I do not wish to cause upset but this is upsetting me so i feel i need to explain about our need for privacy here”. Try and explain that by simply popping round or constantly ringing it is not intentially building a friendship with that neighbour but putting you off from them. Everyone needs space to themselves or indeed a time where they can just do what they feel like, without the stress of worrying whos turning up midway or inviting themselves round at all hours. Im a kind person and will help anyone ladies but if you dont stand up for yourself and your time this will drive you mad until eventually you will lose your temper with them. Life has taught me not matter how many hints you leave some people just have to be told straight.
    Good luck!

  5. Jessie

    Whew! Relief to know it’s not just me who feels harassed by such people!

    I’ve had such neighbours for a long time (two different households) who could not give me a moment’s privacy! The one neighbour (who I don’t speak to at all any more), used to ‘wander’ into my backyard, pull up a chair and sit down, regardless of who else was there. If she didn’t like the person I was already chatting with, she would remain silent the entire time she was there, leaving everyone else feeling very uncomfortable! I’m thankful we are “on the outs” and I don’t have to bother with her.

    Unfortunately, the family who lives next door to her has picked up the obnoxious slack! She is a single mom, with three adult children…but I do believe they are all a ‘little slow’. I was out just today, mowing my lawn and the minute I was finished and sat down on the front steps, one of them was on the way over, followed by the mom. I was asked if I “had fun mowing the lawn” as they walked across the street. I said yes and got up and went in the house – infuriated – I just wanted to rest for 5 damn minutes on my own front step, without being bothered.

    I have been outside weeding my garden, reading a paper, playing with my children, washing my car, talking on the phone, visiting with my next door neighbour….none of that matters….they will march right on over anyway and interrupt whatever it is I’m doing because they don’t have a clue! Sometimes the entire family comes over within minutes of me being outside. One day, as I was chatting with my next-door neighbour, the ‘mom’ came over and stood there, listening to our conversation. Completely ignoring her had no effect as she butted-in and said “I just wanna ask you something when you’re done”. I had to cut short my visit with someone I actually do like in order to accommodate this nuisance’s question. And then they never leave unless I get up and say I have to get going. It wouldn’t be so exhausting if it didn’t happen EVERY SINGLE TIME I go outside! I have, many times, gone into my house when I see them coming out their door, but nothing appears to give them the hint that I’m not interested in their company just because I’m outside.

    Sometimes I get soooo mad at them I could scream! I have, in the past, invited them over for bbqs or a cup of tea…just trying to be friendly, but I’m a private person, with two young children to raise on my own and I don’t really have time to entertain grown-ups who have nothing better to do than hang-out on my front step! I’m a peace-loving person – don’t like friction and will avoid it at all cost and I really don’t know what to say (hints don’t work) that would diplomatically provide them with an understanding that they are driving a wedge between our neighbourly-ness. I know I will feel much worse than they will if I say something to them!

    I don’t know if I’m just too wishy-washy and get taken advantage of by people….or if they are just that dumb and clueless about their ignorance….or if it’s a total lack of respect for me, or what?
    Anyway, I feel better now that I’ve vented! Thanks! lol

  6. Sophie Tucker

    Is it possible to just take these people aside, say “we need to talk”, and then just lay it on the line? Say, “We enjoy your company, but the family really needs alone time. the kids are getting older and we need time for those spontaneous talks that pop up, or questions that arise when I talk to them, that don’t happen when others are around and I am chatting w/ them. So we are asking all our friends to respect this, and Not Come Over Without An Invitation.” Or, “I am the type of person who really needs Alone Time. Just cause I am alone does not mean I need or want company. Please Don’t Come Over Without An Invitation.”
    i went thru something of the same sort, and i know that sometimes these people just don’t get it til you say No to them in every different aspect imaginable. “Well, now that we’ve tried it, we’ve been enjoying our breakfasts alone w/ the kids and finding it a good time to check in with each other. or w/ just us parents- same reason.”

  7. Stella

    I have followed almost ALL of this amazing advice but to no avail. Basically, nosy, intrusive and rude neighbors HEAR what you are saying but have INTENTIONALLY decided to ignore your requests. When this happens, a “Hatfield and McCoy” situation may erupt; like it or not. I live on a ranch and there are 3 other homes on this property. I have a successful business in the city and the others on this ranch have been stuck out here forever; completely removed and isolated from civilization – none of them have jobs. The only thing I thought I’d have to worry about (having escaped here after a bitter divorce) was the coyotes at night. I never dreamed it would be the neighbors I would come to dread, loathe and need to buy “pest repellant spray” for.

    One in particular who – unfortunately – CO-OWNS this ranch is the worst. Like the other person who wrote in about this topic above; he also will go from window to window trying to see what room I’m in when I do not respond to his knocks at my front door or his loud bellowing of “HELLO!”. He intrusively “visits” 5-6 times a day and has NO boundaries which he respects. Finally, I did what I thought was the right thing and I sat outside on my deck one day and joined him for coffee (he will come over uninvited and unannounced each morning and drink his coffee on my deck – regardless of the fact that I won’t join him for this!). I was very kind yet firm in telling him that due to my recent divorce and busy schedule – I do NOT like to have company around often and prefer the solitude that I moved out here to enjoy. I even addressed him specifically by saying, ‘You are very kind and I enjoy living here but I have to ask you to refrain from unannounced or unexpected visits all the time. If I wish to spend time with you I know where to find you. Please understand that this is not about just YOU (although it was…) I have had to tell the others on the ranch this same thing. Fortunately, they respect what I have to say but I’m concerned that you aren’t hearing me since you always show up all the time.'” His answer to this??? I mean, could I be any more CLEAR about wanting him to leave me alone??? Here’s what he said, “I can see I have my work cut out for me then, I need to get you used to ‘ranch time’ instead of city life!”

    I couldn’t believe it so I said, “Well, then I won’t be living here for very long because my privacy is very important to me and it needs to be respected.” He stayed away for all of about 2 days and I thought I’d gotten the point across but just today, he saw me leaving the ranch and actually jumped into my car with me when I had to stop and open our gates to exit the property! He’d been working in the field and smelled bad and I actually said, “Get out of my car!” He wanted to know where I was going (which was none of his business) so I told him that my daughter who was visiting with me was sick and I was going to buy her medication. Needless to say, he claimed he also needed to make an emergency run to the pharmacist (how ironic) so I ended up driving to the drug store seething in the car with this man while he chattered away mindlessly for 20 minutes.

    Gosh, if ANYONE knows something that I haven’t tried yet to deter this pest (short of stringing wreaths of garlic around my front door to ward him off) PLEASE let me know.
    I am on the threshold of screaming at him to get lost and just losing it with him. I don’t even have a last nerve for him to get on any longer and I need to find a way to manage this pest before I lose my mind.

  8. amy

    Omg! This guy sounds dangerous! You should ask him if u need to ge a restraining order! My husband and i have a “friend” who will not go away also. Hes even begun replying Attending to MY facebook events of people he doesnt even know. Also tells us hes cominover for cocktails but will need to spend the.night. (no way) ive publically scolded him..privately scolded him..doesnt seem to faze him. Hes right back stalking me. Im beginning to really believe sometimes we just need to judge situations quickly and address them even meanly to avoid all this rude garbage! I never even stop at someones house without calling! So frustrating….

  9. Lindsey

    I have went through something similar. We used to have these neighbors that lived in a trailor next to us that would never leave us alone! We had a pool and we would go swimming and they would walk over as soon as we got in. They would ask if they could get in. We always said yeah because there wasn’t a reason they couldn’t get in. Then we got the go cart. We would get in and start driving it on our lot, and then they would walk over like can my son get in, or can I get in. Ughhhh! All the time too. I’m so glad they moved! But now our other neighbors always come over. It bothers me, but it doesn’t bother everyone. I’m not nice to them. I clearly state the message that I don’t like them, if only that was enough to make them not want to talk to us.

  10. Maggie sullivan

    I have a neighbor, will holler and wave at me if i am near porch but if i try to sit in the yard, or under shade, here she comes. She has called asking questions, saying to me this is your nosy neighbor…..oh she is nosy all right. I dont want a bad relationship, but i need her to LEAVE ME ALONE. I cannot sit outside without fear of her coming over. How hard is it for her to keep herself out of my business.?

  11. Chelie Belie

    I live next door to Ned Flanders–how would you like that??

  12. Chelie Belie

    AND up the street there’s a psychotic IT that is awe-struck by me! Walks by my property carrying a baggie of something and giving my house the old “side-eye”. Now you think you all got it so bad, huh?!

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