How private is your private life?

You’re away on a holiday

Signs that you’re away on holiday include newspapers piling up on your driveway or front stoop, mail overflowing from the mailbox, and darkened windows. So if you don’t want the fact that you’re away on vacay to be obvious, arrange with the post office to hold your mail and for your newspaper delivery to be suspended, and set some of your indoor lamps to turn on and off automatically with a timer. But don’t leave your outdoor lights on 24/7 as that’s a dead giveaway you’re not home to turn them off.

Your political leanings

How you decorate the outside of your house offers your neighbours subtle clues about your party registration. If you post political signage on your front lawn, your neighbours will be able to assume, pretty much without a doubt, who you’ll be voting for in the next election.

What you like to watch on TV

What you watch on television can be tracked by your provider, so to keep your information private, you can turn off data sharing in your TV settings. What you watch on television can also be tracked by nosy neighbours who can see into your windows. So if you want to keep your television choices private, consider placing your television on a wall that can’t be seen directly from the street or from a neighbour’s window. And consider privacy-enhancing window treatments.

Your online shopping habits

Shopping online is super-convenient; it’s also a super-convenient way for your neighbours to know your shopping habits, especially if the delivery person leaves your packages waiting for you on your doorstep or outside of your garage. If you don’t like the idea of your neighbours knowing your online shopping habits, some online retailers allow you to purchase online and pick up in person. Of course, that’s not quite as convenient, so you’ll have to decide where to strike the balance.

Your kids are having parties when you’re not home

Even smart teens do stupid things, and your neighbours will probably know before you do if your kids are having parties when you’re not home. But if you use these tips to build trust with your neighbours, you may be able to get the scoop on what’s happening at your house when you’re not around.

Your pet is out of control

When your pet is out of control your neighbours usually notice – even if they don’t complain to you directly. Signs of an out-of-control pet include excessive barking and/or your pet roaming freely throughout the neighbourhood.

You lost your job

If you’re suddenly home during the day whereas you never were in the past, your neighbours may suspect you’ve lost your job. There may be nothing you can do about it other than keeping a low profile, but if you can network with them regarding new job opportunities, it might not be such a bad thing.

You’re having money problems in general

If you let your house or your yard fall into disrepair, or if you’re selling off your belongings (which might be apparent if you have removal vans pulling up to your house and driving off with your leather sofa and your 60-inch television), your neighbours may suspect you’re having money problems, whether or not you are. If you are, in fact, having money problems, there may be nothing you can do about this, but hopefully, your neighbours will be kind and supportive, rather than nosy and invasive.

There’s been a death in the family

When there are a lot of cars parked in the vicinity of your house, it could mean that you’re celebrating something (a graduation, for example). But if the cars continue to appear for several days in a row, and if the people coming to visit are dressed sombrely and carrying casseroles, your neighbours may suspect that there’s been a death in your family.

There’s a new baby in the family!

If you festoon your front door with pink or blue balloons, a giant cardboard cutout of a stork, or banners saying “Congratulations! It’s a Boy!” (or girl), you’re pretty much guaranteeing that your neighbours are going to know you have a new baby. If you live in an apartment, and the walls are thin, you can be pretty sure they’ll know even if you don’t decorate your front door.

You’re having family problems

Some family problems are easy to keep private. Others, not so much, particularly when they involve high drama. For example, a contributor to Reddit’s Nosy, Meddlesome Neighbour community recalls the day she arrived home from work to see her neighbour’s adult son (she refers to him as a “deadbeat”) locked out of his house, all of his belongings thrown all over the front yard. “It was raining,” she writes, and the son was standing around, making phone calls and shouting.

You’re having pest problems

When the exterminator comes to call, it could be preventative, or it could be in response to an infestation. Either way, if your neighbours notice, they may assume the worst. That being said, if you need an exterminator, it would be a good deed on your part to let your neighbours know, especially if your houses are close together or your children or pets interact. And if you see an exterminator parked outside your neighbour’s house, it might be a good time to make your own appointment for an exterminator to visit because pests tend to be very neighbourly!

You’re having an affair

On the Nosy Neighbours of Reddit board, Reddit contributor, jaycentpants recalls looking out the window and seeing a middle-aged female neighbour having sex with a teenage boy in her outdoor hot tub. But if you’re engaging in extramarital hanky-panky in your own home, your neighbours may figure it out even if you don’t make an outdoor show of it, particularly if the same car keeps parking in your driveway… at the same time… on the same day… week after week.