Weird Habits of Suburbanites


Ah, the sights and sounds of autumn. The crunch of leaves, the bright blue sky, the brilliant foliage…

And the deafening sound of leaf blowers. Inefficient, loud, lazy leaf blowers blowing six leaves at a time, when a rake can coral hundreds at once.

Here are some more weird habits I’ve noticed in our Midwestern suburb. No offense if you do any of these. We do some weird stuff, too, like raising chickens, hauling manure in our hatchback Focus, and baiting swarms of bees. And there’s the time my kid peed in the middle of a Kan jam tournament. Maybe we just belong in the country. That’s why we’re rocking the burbstead.

  1. Mulch flower beds. Every spring, mulch is advertised ubiquitously and many homeowners spend a bunch of time and money spreading mulch on their flower beds. God forbid we let the dirt show. I suppose it may cut back on weeds, but I can’t imagine why mulch is so highly coveted come spring in the suburbs.
  2. Plant annuals. While you’re picking up mulch, why not buy a few flats of impatiens or other small, non-fragrant flowers, and painstakingly plant them strategically around your home? Never mind that they’ll be dead within two months, and that you’ll have to do it all over again next year. We’d rather grow something edible.
  3. Stay inside. Once those beds are mulched and annuals planted, most people hibernate until it’s time to blow leaves. The yards people moved to the ‘burbs for sit largely untouched, except to mow the grass. Just about everyone has an unused patio furniture set and a grill that makes all of four burgers a year. People with children might venture out a bit more but for the most part the prized decks, patios, and lawns of suburban homes lie empty.
  4. Not meet their neighbors. We’ve thrust ourselves upon the neighbors by baking them cookies when we moved in as well as when anyone new moves into the ‘hood. (Thank God the pastry chef was NOT HOME when I took them some slightly-too-crisp chocolate chip cookies before I learned her profession.) Anywho, meeting your neighbors takes work nowadays, and even some pretty sneaky moves like just *happening* to check the mail at the same time.
  5. Park in the driveway. Let’s just be honest–having a garage is one of the biggest advantages of suburban vs. city dwelling. Where else are you going to store all your extra junk? I mean, park your car. Wait no, definitely store the junk. We only park in our garage in the winter, and only then after a massive garage clean-out in which we fold up the stroller, bike trailer, ping pong table, chicken feeders, and other trappings of burbstead life.
  6. Buy each other’s stuff at yard sales. Speaking of garages, when do we venture out to see our neighbors? When we want to buy their stuff on mad discount at garage sales. Two fancier neighborhood have community garage sales and it’s crazy how people show up early to start rifling through other people’s junk. We went and scored some K’nex which have been a huge hit.
  7. Trash pick each other’s stuff. What’s more embarrassing than haggling over your neighbor’s used furniture? Picking it out of their tree lawn under cover of darkness later. Not that we would know 🙂
  8. Own too many tools. Clearly every homeowner needs to own a pressure washer, an extension ladder, a post hole digger, a table saw, a hydraulic jack, and an air compressor. We wouldn’t want to share or anything. That’d be too neighborly. Instead we’ll all spend thousands of dollars on all this equipment we rarely use, and store it all in our garages where our cars don’t fit, so that we don’t ever have to meet each other. Or, if you’re like us, wait until someone throws out their broken equipment and…well, you know the rest.
  9. Treat their lawns. Grass, that stubborn plant that cannot be allowed into the flower beds, is highly coveted in the rest of the yard. Clover, on the other hand, is intolerable. People pay a small fortune for toxins to kill any non-grass plants that may dare to grow. Maybe it’s my Irish heritage, but I can’t imagine what’s so offensive about clover, and certainly won’t be paying anyone to kill it.
  10. Helicopter parent. Another supposed advantage of the suburbs is their safety, yet we’re still expected to watch our kids like hawks. Go to a suburban playground and observe the moms. They are on the slides, up the ladders, and generally following their children at no more than a two-step distance. They are most certainly not sitting and watching from the park benches, lest they be accused of negligence. I love when no one is at the park (which happens often since no one goes outside) so I can sit down for once in my life and just do nothing. Isn’t that what playgrounds are for?

Has anyone observed these or other strange suburban habits? What are some quirky country or city ways you’ve noticed? 


35 Responses to “Weird Habits of Suburbanites”

  1. The Green Swan says :

    What a fun post, you nailed some good ones here! 🙂

    Everyone in Charlotte parks in the driveway, it is insane! I’m guessing everyone looks at us funny though because we actually use our garage as a garage.

    We usually have the neighborhood park to ourselves when we go (usually a couple times every weekend). But you won’t see me on the side sitting on the bench…I’m the parent running around chasing my kid and climbing around and going down the slide with him, etc…I’m still a kid at heart, what can I say.

    • Kalie says :

      Our home style makes it more convenient to park in the driveway, until it gets cold and snowy outside.

      Haha, I’ve been known to go on the slides and play tag at the playground, too 🙂 Now that my kids aren’t toddlers, it’s nice to catch a break sometimes though.

  2. Josh says :

    When we moved into our house in August we planned on parking a car right away. Well, we have been busy doing DIY projects instead. We will do a clean out around Christmas time, but, as long as leaves are on the trees we arguably spend as much time in the garage as the rest of our house.

  3. Tonya says :

    I guess in a sort of suburban-like setting in an urban area. The leaf blowers! OMG hate them so much! I think another thing I noticed is nosy neighbors. There is always that one person who knows everything about everyone ( and usually goes off assumptions). There is always the one neighbor who is bat-shit crazy too. Like all the kids are scared to walk on their lawn..that they might get kidnapped. :0

    • Kalie says :

      That’s so true about the usual neighbor types. Fortunately we have become friends with several neighbors, largely because we have kids that are close in age.

  4. Emily says :

    Haha. I had those same observations when we lived in the suburbs, especially how everyone worked in their yards but never enjoyed their yards. I’m quite the opposite. You’ll find me lounging on the porch or deck with a book far more than you’ll find me pulling weeds…. Now that we live on a city block we feel more at hom e.

    • Kalie says :

      I’m glad you’re feeling more at home in the city. And that’s great that you get out and enjoy the yard! I pull weeds only a couple times a year. There are better ways to spend life, right?

  5. Amanda says :

    The one I notice the most is #3. I rarely see my neighbors outside enjoying nice weather (or their decks). They mow and sometimes fertilize the lawn but, other than that, they aren’t out.

  6. Fulltimefinance says :

    Half rural half suburb here (well, septic, live in a woods but maybe 10 mins from a city). The mulching honestly is something we do. Some of our neighbors do the never outside thing but most are retires so I give some slack. The big one for us not on the list is the younger neighbors not only not going outside but paying someone to do their lawns. Why buy a liability you never use? My house is considered as having a woods view so maybe they sit on their sunroom and stare at it all summer? Meanwhile I mulch leaves with a mower and dump the rest on flower beds for mulch/in woods behind my house. The kids play outside all the time and I have to replace the grill every 2-3 years as it cooks almost every summer meal.

    • Kalie says :

      Sounds like you have the best of the country and the ‘burbs. We’d love to live near/in the woods, while staying close to civilization. That’s great you make good use of your yard and grill!

  7. Xyz says :

    Since we moved to the suburbs, I have noticed that
    – most people that own a pickup truck never puts anything big in it.
    – most of my neighbors spend more on Christmas decorations than we do on all gifts.
    – most people spend more time cleaning their pools than playing in them.
    – most people drive their kids to school even if it’s a 5-minute walk away.
    …and the list goes on 🙂

    • Kalie says :

      So true about the trucks! Lots of SUVs, too, but not a lot of going outside. And I’ve noticed that about driving kids to school, which is something I have no desire to do.

  8. Carrie says :

    I do mulch around the shrubs/gardens in our yard. It helps maintain moisture and cut down on the need to water. We use rain barrels to water flowers and shrubs so we must ration it. We do not water our lawn but many of my neighbours do, it just means you have to cut it more often. Another puzzling thing my neighbours do is hose down their driveways. Do driveways really get that dirty?

    • Kalie says :

      Good to know mulch serves a purpose in gardening. We also water our garden with a rain barrel as much as possible. We definitely don’t water the lawn, though. You’re right that it just makes you have to cut it more.

  9. Team CF says :

    Nice post (and so true)!
    As for the mulch, we had the stuff as well and it is brilliant! We were living in a semi-arid climate and mulch is a great way to maintain moisture in the soil. Also, it’s a great way to keep a relatively low maintenance yard needing little watering. As a bonus, it also provides some nutrients to the soil when it decomposes. So we can definitely see the appeal for it.

    • Kalie says :

      We have mulch, too, but we’ve never had to purchase more in our 7 years here. I guess I just don’t get why people do it every year. We are not in an arid climate. It makes sense to maintain moisture if you are.

  10. Femme Frugality says :

    As a city dweller, the lack of use of outdoor space makes me sad! A major reason I want to move to the burbs. We trash pick in the city, too, though most people don’t feel obligated to wait for the cover of night. 😉

    • Kalie says :

      Haha, we don’t wait unless it’s our next door neighbor’s stuff!

    • Sage says :

      in the city we text curb alerts to eachother if we see something someone else would want. And we hold parking spaces by parking on the street instead of our driveways – or god forbid the garage.

  11. Brian says :

    We just had a new neighbor move in, we do plan on going over and introducing ourselves this weekend, but do often find people live on the same street for years and never know one another.

    We clean up the leafs because once we get snow and ice it can make walkways even more slippery. So I’ll be using the leaf blower this weekend. 🙂

    • Kalie says :

      That’s awesome that you introduce yourselves to new neighbors. It seems to be a lost art.

      We definitely clean up the leaves and save some for our compost pile. We just find the rake more efficient. 🙂

  12. Kathy says :

    Since we were invited to comment about city dwellers also, here’s my observation. People choose to live in a huge city and then complain they live too close to their neighbors. What did they expect?

    In my subdivision in the suburbs, I am amazed at how often people mow their grass. We cut once a week unless it is early spring and it is growing super fast, but some of our neighbors cut every other day. What a waste of gas and very inconsiderate to people who have to listen to the noise.

    • Kalie says :

      Yeah, that’s an ironic one about city dwellers not liking the proximity to their neighbors.

      I agree that some people mow the grass astonishingly often. Maybe they love it? To us it is hard to fit into our schedule, and happens only once a week like you said. This summer was so dry I don’t think it got mowed for a month or two!

  13. Emily says :

    Our car port does have a car in it, it’s just not the car we drive. (rolls eyes at hubby’s car habit.) And we do know some of our neighbors, but we’ve lived here 6 years and it’s taken that long. There are a few of us who go for walks and wave and chat, and one neighborhood Christmas party so you can meet folks at least annually. But our neighborhood runs strongly to seniors right now rather than families with kids, and wooded lots rather than lawns.

    • Kalie says :

      Kudos to you for being supportive of your husband’s hobbies. 🙂 That’s nice your neighborhood has a Christmas party. And that you have wooded lots where you live. Consider me jealous!

  14. Taryn says :

    Ha! I always sit on the bench at the park. I take my kids to the park so I can get a break and they can play with other kids. I saw a mom get stuck in the toddler tunnel once at the park. She got out, don’t worry. It was mostly just very awkward. She was trying to convince her 2 year old to crawl through it. He was not having it.

    We live in an older “interior” suburb- I’ve been told this is what it’s called. It was built just after WW2, so the houses are all smaller and older with no garages. And there is no HOA, so no one makes as much effort with their yard. Anyhow, we are outside all the time and so are our neighbors. So we know most of them pretty well. There is a big Halloween party every year and a smaller block party as well. We have a really active neighborhood listserve. I really love where we live.

    I have friends who live in much nicer suburbs where the houses have attached garages and there are HOAs and they never see their neighbors. One of my church ladies told me that she has lived in her house for 20 years and never met a neighbor. My theory is that the difference is 1) parking in attached garages, which makes it possible to never be outside and thus never see your neighbors and 2) hiring out yardwork in order to satisfy the HOA.

    • Kalie says :

      Very interesting about the different types of suburbs. My husband grew up in what is technically considered a suburb of a large city, but it was nothing like some of the fancy suburbs in our town. We definitely live in one of the not-fancy developments of our suburb. I’ve heard of places where you can’t hang clothes outside or have chickens in the back yard. I’m glad we are allowed to have those!

      And yes, I’ve had to coax a scared toddler down from the play place in Chick Fil-a. We’ve probably all been there with a little one, but I prefer to sit back and watch now that they’re a bit older!

  15. Holly Johnson says :

    My next door neighbor blows his leaves for several hours each day. That is not an exaggeration.

  16. Fruclassity (Ruth) says :

    This just hits a little too close to home! Many of the above (though I won’t admit to which ones). As for parents at the playground, the worst is to see them texting while their kids play.

    • Kalie says :

      We do some of these too 🙂 It is sad when parents are completely absorbed in their phones while out with their kids. It’s one of the reasons I don’t have data on my phone yet, though I’m sure I’ll have to come into this century sooner or later.

  17. Frugal Millennial says :

    “Instead we’ll all spend thousands of dollars on all this equipment we rarely use, and store it all in our garages where our cars don’t fit, so that we don’t ever have to meet each other.” Haha very accurate!

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