The yard you choose to use says a lot about how you feel about your neighbors. The back yard approach is typically closed off from the rest of the neighborhood. Whether it has a fence or not, it says “we don’t want to be seen, and we don’t want to see you – this is our private space.” This approach is very typical in suburbia, enforced by gated communities, guard dogs, and the like. The goal is to keep people out, only letting them on the rare occasion we feel like it, on our terms.
The front yard tells a different story. This approach says “we want to be seen, whether you drive by in your car, walking your dog, or riding your bike.” The front yard creates anticipation for community, looking for people who may have hobbies or interests in common. The front yard encourages engagement and looks for opportunity to connect with others. The walls are not there. You are not hiding. You want to know others and be known by them.
Moving from the back to front may make your front yard look a little messy. We brought our kids’ picnic tables, plastic slides, etc. that normally is in the back to the front. We play our football and wiffle ball games out front. Basically, whatever we once did in the back, we have made an effort to do in the front (grilling out, throwing parties, playing games, or just hanging out on the porch).
What kind of difference does it make? It tells your neighbors you are present, you are open, and you are welcoming them to join in with a spirit of hospitality. While that may not sound like much, I believe you will be surprised by the difference it makes.