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My neighborhood: good or bad?

Today, I’m going to start out by telling you all the lovely things about my neighborhood.

Kristen's neighborhood from the opposite shore, reflected in the river.

The neighborhood I live in borders a river. This land was originally home to summer cottages, and now it’s an eclectic mix of smaller houses with lots of newer, beautiful homes on the waterfront.

frosty grasses in morning sun.

The streets are wide, with plenty of driving room even when people do on-street parking.

Oak trees tower over most of the neighborhood, with a few evergreens here and there.

A little girl with a helmet on, riding a tricycle down a tree-lined stree.

A neighborhood street, featuring a small Zoe

Each section of the neighborhood has water access, restricted to the public, but available to neighborhood residents. So, the water-access areas are never crowded.

A dock on the river at sunrise.

Our river access point has a community rack to hold our kayaks, and there’s a boat ramp that makes it pretty easy to launch our kayaks. There are several grassy areas down there, and wooden picnic tables, plus a little wooden walkway down by the waterfront.

foggy river

Our river access is near the headwaters; we can kayak almost up to where the river starts. And if we kayak the other way, we can paddle out to more open water.

A bridge over a small river.


One of the water-access areas here is a lovely little path through the woods, which ends at a small area right on the river’s edge with a little bench where you can sit and take in the view.

a bench next to a steaming river.

A few blocks down from my house is a field where two horses live. They’re friendly, and if you bring carrots or apples, they’re happy to come to the fence to get a snack.

A horse in a field, lit by a sunbeam.

And the one will come see you even if you don’t show him a carrot!

A horse in silhouette.

The people in this neighborhood are generally quiet and peaceful.

My neighborhood has virtually no community fees, and there’s no micro-managing that goes on; you can basically do whatever you want with your house as long as it doesn’t violate any county laws.

(Which is a far cry from our townhouse community, where we had to submit plans and wait for approval to plant a small shrub in our front border!)

We all have septic tanks, which means we don’t have to pay for public sewer.

People love celebrating holidays here, and there are always fireworks on the 4th of July. If we hop into our kayaks, we can paddle out and watch them from the water.

Fireworks exploding in a night sky over a river.




Let me give you another view.

Our neighborhood has no sidewalks; you have to walk on the street.

There are no curbs, which makes the street look kind of messy. Also, the road drainage is not quite up to par, so after a rainstorm, there’s a veritable lake on the road in front of my house.

The houses are all mismatched, and some of them are really ugly.

an old white house.

This particular house is abandoned.

Since there are no community rules, people sometimes let their houses fall into pretty bad states of repair. The chimney is literally pulling away from one house on my street. Every day when we walk by, I half expect to see it lying on the ground!

The house that goes with the horse field has had Tyvek on it for the whole 15 years we’ve lived here. They did a small amount of siding about six months ago, but there’s been no progress since then.

Seventeen cars, in varying states of repair, dot the front yard of that house. 

A broken fence.

A tree fell onto their fence, so they just tied the fence up to the stump of a tree to hold the fence up. I imagine it will be that way for 15 years or so. 😉

One time, a renter down the street (possibly high at the time) walked out into the road in nothing but a bedsheet.

Sometimes, fireworks go on for multiple days around holidays (or sometimes even not on holidays) and this was super frustrating when I had little kids who were trying to sleep.

The oak trees drop copious amounts of yellow pollen, then brown oak flowers. In the fall, they dump acorns and leaves. Year-round, they drop small branches and twigs.

oak pollen

Sometimes, the oaks die and then you have to pay hundreds of dollars to have them removed.

split oak firewood

The summer mosquitos here are terrible.

Sometimes, the dock and walkways by the river are un-walkable because of the goose poop. And after the rain, the goose poop gets all waterlogged and soggy; even worse!

Log in the river with driftwood.

The grassy areas near the water get water-logged very easily; your shoes can sink right into the ground after a rainstorm.

Our water access is near the headwaters of the river, so sometimes the water is murky and stinky in the summer.

oily slick on river

an oil slick on the river

One of the water-access areas is a spot by the river with a cinder block, graffiti-ed retaining wall. The wooden bench is chained into the ground so that it won’t get stolen, and sometimes there’s trash around the bench.

Having septic tanks is lovely until it’s not; if your septic system has a problem, it can quickly result in a $1000 repair bill. And if you have to replace the system? The cost is enormous.


So. Is this neighborhood wonderful? or terrible?

If you only read the first part of this post, you might be dying to come live in my neighborhood.

And if you only read the second part, you might be like, “Note to self: never buy a house in Kristen’s neighborhood!”

But both parts of this post are equally true.

The good and bad are both here

There IS a beautiful field with lovely horses in it. And there is also a half-finished house right next to that.

There IS a beautiful view at the end of that wooded path. And there is also a graffiti-covered cinder block wall there.

a river with steam rising off it.

This photo is lovely:

a fence with frost on it.

And this is the same fence.

an old chain link fence.

The blue thing is a roll of old carpet, I think. I always try to frame my shots to keep it out of view!

Pretending that this neighborhood has only good features would be dishonest.

But acting as though this neighborhood has only bad features would also be dishonest!

It is extremely easy to see what’s wrong with our neighborhoods, and anything else in our lives, for that matter.

What is not easy is seeing the good parts.

Seeing the good takes effort

We see the bad parts of everything by default, so if we just let our brains go where they will, that’s the view we will usually have: all the bad stuff.

But if we want to have a realistic view, we usually have to make a point of hunting for and noticing the good parts.

So, if you want to have a better attitude about where you live, try making a list of all the upsides. It costs exactly $0, which is a lot cheaper than what it would cost to move somewhere else.

(And besides, whatever place you move to will be a mix of great and not-so-great anyway!)

What are the good and bad parts of where you live? Tell me something not so awesome AND something great.

P.S. Sometimes when I write about this topic, people sometimes are a little worried that I’m telling people to ignore the bad/hard parts of various things in life. I’m not. What I’m saying is that it is extremely unlikely that we will err on the side of giving too little attention to the bad things in our lives.

What is way more likely is that we will give too little attention to the good things. So, my point is that most of us need to do a better job of hunting for the good things.

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Wednesday 6th of April 2022

I utterly despise my neighborhood and wish desperately to move. After reading this I am going to sit and look for the good in it. It is actually not as bad as it could be and I am thankful. I mean I could be living in the neighborhood of Russia.


Monday 22nd of November 2021


I really enjoyed and appreciated this post and the photos in both categories. I am a long time reader/lurker and I love your blog. I live in San Francisco in a densely populated urban neighborhood that has so much to love (beautiful parks and nature, year round flowers, amazing views, lots of cafes and locally owned businesses, friendly neighbors who support each other, so much to do within easy walking distance, wonderful diversity, a surprising amount of wildlife to watch including hawks and hummingbirds in my little backyard), and things that are upsetting and sad (people suffering from mental illness who are unhoused and unable to care for themselves (and despite so much well intended concern about this, there does not seem to be any solution in sight); too many property crimes; trash and mess that the neighbors and local businesses do an amazing job of cleaning up, but it is a never ending job; empty storefronts that have remained vacant for many years). I adore living here, despite the less lovely parts, but I definitely see both. Thank you for your insights on focusing on the good parts.



Saturday 20th of November 2021

Yes, that's precisely the idea! And I hadn't heard that story before. :)


Saturday 20th of November 2021

This post is amazing! Thank you! It reminds me of a story some of you have probably heard about perspective. It goes something like this: Two long-time residents were having coffee in front of their local general store. A young man with out of state plates pulled up and asked the two friends about the neighborhood, since he was considering moving there. They asked him what his last neighborhood was like, to which he responded, "Well, the neighbors were nosy and there was trash everywhere. No one said good morning to each other and it was generally kind of awful." One replied, "Well, it's just like that here." The visitor left. A little while later, another visitor pulled up and as she headed into the store, she struck up a conversation with the friends. She then said she was being relocated for her job and was moving there and wanted to know what they thought of the neighborhood. They asked her the same question, "What was it like in your old neighborhood?" "Oh, everyone was amazing. People really care for each other and come together in times of need. We even get together to pick up trash every month and afterwards we have coffee and bagels and we also host a neighborhood bake sale and donate the money to the community center! I have made the best friends and I am going to miss them so much." The friends responded, "It's just like that here."

Beth B.

Friday 19th of November 2021

Kristen, This is a great post! Sorry I am late in responding. I've had a crazy week.

PROS: I bought my current home (a townhome) in 1997 and I have not had any desire to move. I have great neighbors, some of which have been here longer than me. We have each others' backs and help each other out. The neighborhood is safe and because there's an HOA, the homes and yards are kept up. We don't have RV's and junk cars in the street. We are a 1 - 2 minute drive from a multitude of stores and restaurants. The freeway is very close but I usually can't hear it from my home (except during "bike week" every spring, when the motorcycles are super loud on the freeway). We have quite a lot of wildlife here, from coyotes, bobcats, javelinas, and bunnies to owls, hawks, and wild lovebirds. I can see the nearby mountains from my front yard and there are tons of hiking trails nearby. It's a gorgeous area.

CONS: This neighborhood (and the entire city) is very expensive and I wouldn't be able to afford buying my townhome in today's market. The HOA can be picky and restrictive, but at least the HOA fees aren't too high. I live in the desert and half of the year is very hot. My AC bill is very high during those months. We do have a roof rat issue in this area, so I have to stay on top of that. Yuck! Luckily, we do not have scorpions in my neighborhood, so I am very thankful about that.

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