Trashing the Neighborhood


    Someone on your block keeps putting out their trash in front of your apartment — when it's not even trash day — and you are being blamed for the mess. Miriam's Advice Well offers some proactive solutions.

    Dear Miriam,

    Someone on my block keeps putting out their trash in front of my apartment when it's not trash day. I have no idea whose trash it is or who thinks I'm responsible. I only have one next door neighbor as I'm on a corner, but the people who live above me leave their trash on that corner as well. I once left the trash outside for a week then put it out on the next pickup day. After that, I found a nasty anonymous note in my mail that afternoon saying, "I'll take care of your trash this week; put your trash in front of your own house." This week, I found someone else's bag of trash on my doorstep when I came home. What should I do?

    Trashing the Neighborhood

    Dear Trashing,

    Trash night is one of the great equalizers of city living, but only if everyone plays according to the rules. Though potentially uncomfortable, the best way to handle the situation is in person and as kindly as possible. I would suggest knocking on your neighbors' doors, both the ones next door and the apartments upstairs, and introducing yourself with your name and where you live if you don't already know each other. The say something like, "I've noticed that someone keeps putting the trash out early, and I wanted to check in with all my neighbors to see if anyone has an idea of what we can do about it." That way, you're 1) making it clear that you're not responsible for that trash (but are a responsible neighbor!), and 2) you're asking for advice instead of potentially making them think that you're making an accusation. Even if none of them have anything useful to offer in terms of solving the problem, your reaching out may still help improve neighbor relations and may alleviate the trash-on-the-doorstep piece of the problem.

    If you can't bear the idea of doing this in person, make a good, old-fashioned flyer and put it in the neighbors' mailboxes. Again, if you're comfortable, I think it's worth including your name, or at least your apartment, so that it's clear that you're not the offending party. Make it friendly, even funny, and say something like this, but with more cleverness: "Hey neighbors. Just a friendly reminder that trash night is ___________. Please don't put your trash out before that!" You could even cite the fact that Philly will issue fines for trash put out early, and that it would be a terrible shame for a neighbor to be fined for someone else's trash.

    If the accusations directed at you continue after these measures, and you're renting from someone reasonable, see if your landlord has any suggestions. You could also put a note on your door proactively that says, "The trash on the corner is not mine so don't put it on my doorstep." Short of staking out the area to see who's putting out the trash and also who's sending you nasty notes, there aren't so many other options. If you do get fined, though, be sure to contest it (another situation where you may need to get your landlord involved). I you see any neighbors out on trash night or just around the neighborhood, you can use those encounters as further opportunities to try to get everyone on the same side of the problem. Continue trying to be the good guy in this junky situation, and hopefully your attitude will catch on.

    Be well,