Featured in

Featured in: Tiny Buddha, Halifax Media Coop, Fine Fit Day, Simplify the Season, La Presse, Filles, Le Canada-Français

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 45 - Social sustainability in the suburbs

Quebec City, 2015. By JSM

"A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbor - such is my idea of happiness." (Leo Tolstoy, Family Happiness)

Moving to Nova Scotia eight years ago, we bought our first house. Our real estate agent recommended a certain area, partly based on the school's good reputation. We also liked the nature feel (big lots surrounded by large wooded areas). We chose a house that seemed to fit our needs, wants and hopes. As we were soon to discover, however, the building, the land and the neighborhood might be important pieces of the puzzle, they are not the only ones. One of the best surprises, after moving here, has been the neighbors themselves.

Moving away from everything and everyone we knew could have been painful, but we adapted rather well, and what made the biggest difference was the people who live around us.

We were not the only ones to notice. I recently read the following post on our neighborhood's Facebook page, where people can share information, ask questions (or for help), and generally stay connected: 

"Love love love this neighborhood!! People are so friendly!! Any time I have been looking for anything I get pretty much an instant response and through that I met such awesome people!!"

If it sounds cheesy, it's not. This quote illustrates very well how it feels to live here.

The best thing about great neighbors is that they keep getting better. At first you introduce yourself to each other, occasionally help each other (babysitting, pet-sitting, house-sitting, garden-watering, or the classic "can I borrow three eggs and a some flour?") Occasionally, you offer each other small tokens of appreciation. I've received special deliveries of lobster, freshly fished clams, freshly hunted moose or deer, leftover birthday cake. I've shared homemade muffins and soups.  I've traded fruit and vegetables from the garden. We've helped each other shovel snow. Adults look out for children. Older kids look out for younger ones. 

As time passes, courteous interactions turn into full-blown friendships as you find yourself discussing life for hours on end over a cup of coffee. We go for walks (or runs) together. We have barbecues, bonfires, pool parties.

Eventually, it gets comfortable enough that you can walk over in your PJs to share a glass of wine (been there, done that).

Eventually, you become close enough that you confide in each other about your hopes, dreams, worries, fears, or secrets.

But our community is even more than a warm and welcoming place where one easily makes new friends. It's also its own little local economy in itself. 

Many of us run a small business. For some it's in the building trades. For some it's the making of jewelry, foods, gifts. Some of us offer services: childcare,  piano lessons, tutoring, translating, home decorating. Most of us run those small businesses from home. This promotes family life and flexibility. And because many of us use each other's business when we need a good or a service, our neighborhood almost qualifies as a self-sufficient mini-market. We don't have to go very far to find a small, locally owned (by a friend) consignment store, preschool, hair salon, spa. Some of those services or goods are bartered, which reinforces the feeling of a communal, self-contained system.

Above the location, the house, the school and all other aspects of living here, this might be my favorite feature about this neighborhood.

What do you like about your neighborhood? Does any part of it contribute to living a simple life?


Just saw an add (on social media) about a service that delivers a box of goodies to your dog every month. I can barely imagine how much junk you are left with at the end of the year! 

Soon I will have to go shopping for Christmas presents. After almost eleven months of buying close to nothing, I'm not sure how to feel about it. I will try and keep it simple. 

How do you manage your Christmas shopping?

Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

Become a follower of the blog/subscribe by email (top left corner of this page)!


  1. As you I found a great neighborhood to live in. It happened mostly by chance. The people are diverse, helpful, and interesting. We have neighborhood picnics twice a year, work days where many of the people tend to whatever to keep the area clean and cared for. We have a home association and the assessments are very low. It's very rural yet close to the city.

  2. I live in the country. And the neighbors I have are my parents, my grandma, my aunt and uncle and my cousin and family. We do have a neighbor across the road that is a summer resident and we just had dinner with them last week for them to say thank you for watching their cabin and land over the winter months. We shared a few beers with them for watching over my parents while we were camping. Neighbors- family or friends- are awesome and when you take them time to make sure all are okay, taken care of and happy....life is good.
    I don't do Christmas gifts....like things....any more. I only make bake goods, canned goods, gift baskets full of good things. I love those kind of gifts also since no one makes that same things I do.
    I went to the local thrift shop this week to drop off a load of things my mama sent and I would of done awesome if a small wooden box for a quarter didn't call my name. I did already make it into something and will probably donate it to my church for it's Christmas bazzarr but for now it's something extra in my house I really didn't need but do love.
    Have an awesome and blessed week. Thanks again for a though provoking post.

    1. Your neighborhood sounds pretty "family like"! :-)

      You seem like you found the solution to Christmas shopping. Thank you for reminding me of these options.

  3. ahhhh I hate my 'hood (shhhh :-)) as when we moved back we picked walkability (to school) and the schools...but the people? NOT SO FRIENDLY.
    I guess you cant have it all.

    1. You're right: you can't have it all. Here we have to share the land with bears and coyotes. :-p

  4. We stopped doing the commercial Christmas gift buying a long time a go. We decorate with what we already have, and I make a special meal and we call it good. Our kids are grown and there are no small children. I knit now so I plan to make something for both my husband and son but that is all. I have a tough time with Christmas since my mom died right around that time back in 2004.For several years I didn't feel like celebrating AT ALL but I do better now.Hard to believe she will have been gone 11 years next month I still miss her every day.

    1. I understand the feeling when someone important is missing during the holidays, as I lost my father 15 years ago. Also, I live far from all family members, so we have had to reinvent Christmas as a low-key celebration. I often use the holidays as a time of reflection (instead of a time of consumption). :-)

  5. I live on one of Denver's poorest neighborhoods - I lovingly call it "the land of cracker box houses" because it's all tiny frame homes built right after WWII. But it's part of my "voluntary poverty" lifestyle, and being able to buy a home for cheap has allowed me freedoms I never could have experienced otherwise. When I first moved here, the neighborhood was mostly a combination of little old blue-haired ladies who were the original owners of their homes and Mexican immigrants. These days most of the little old ladies are gone, but with Denver's outrageous housing prices, we're starting to see young working class families and bohemian types moving in - so the neighborhood is VERY diverse.

    I totally LOVE the diversity of my neighborhood, and it gives me hope for the future. I mean, my immediate neighbors include a redneck auto mechanic, a bohemian wig maker, a little old retired lady, a retired house painter who lives with his invalid sister, a young immigrant family who run a landscaping business, a family of musicians who perform in a family Mariachi band, a gay couple & their son, and a working class couple whose kids are all grown. And then, of course, there's me, the crazy cat lady gardener woman!

    But despite how radically different everybody is, our neighborhood has a real sense of people looking out for each other. We have steep hills, and the city never plows here, but since lots of my neighbors do snow removal work, they always keep the streets and alleys plowed. We take care of each other's pets, help each other with yard work and home repairs, and check in on the remaining little old ladies. One day my garage door malfunctioned and didn't close as I drove away. I came home to find that the guy across the street had closed it for me and left a nice little note.

    Even with the language barrier, it's remarkable to me how everybody gets along and there's a real sense that you're neighbors have got your back. Plus... people just don't seem to judge each other here like they do in wealthier areas. Nobody cares if your lawn is a mess or if your house has peeling paint - I dunno... just sorta feels like there's a genuineness about people who all feel like they're "in it together." Perhaps I'm being overly romantic, but it does give me hope for society at large.

    1. Diversity is a fantastic thing! It opens our eyes, and our hearts. If your neighborhood is the microcosm of a possible society at large, then all hope is not lost.