It may look like a front porch, but it's also my office and an extended living room. I feel at ease here, sitting on a loveseat made from willow tree branches, with my laptop computer resting on my legs as I write. Friends visit and we watch the fireflies light up against the trees come evening.
Although I love spending time here, and consider it much more than just a front porch, I am careful not to abuse this space — especially since I am on the main drag of my town. Sadly, some people fall into some etiquette black holes when it comes to their own porch behaviors.
Here are five basic rules everyone should really abide by.
1. Don't treat your porch like a kind of purgatory for unloved, no-longer-needed goods waiting until they are thrown out.
This is not the place to store your broken appliances, downhill ski boots that no longer fit, cases of empty beer bottles, things you have meant to fix for three years, or stacks of newspapers and flyers bound for a recycling bin maybe one day. A porch should not be the final resting place for such things. Take it to the curb on garbage day, donate it, or fix it. Put an end to your state of indecision about what's next for your stuff. Neatness counts.
2. Do dress for success — even on your porch.
I see a couple in town quite often who treat their porch as an extension of their bedroom. She wears a long nightgown and he wears just a crumpled pair of boxer shorts. They're visible to anyone passing by on the sidewalk since they sit under the steady glow of a bright outdoor light, illuminating themselves for all to see.
I believe if I can't wear an outfit to the grocery store to pick up a jar of pickles without stares and eyebrow raising, then I shouldn't be sitting on my front porch dressed in it.
3. Do make your porch a welcoming space.
One of the first impressions someone will have of you and your house comes from your porch. A ripped sofa and dead houseplants don't exactly say, "Come on over!" They say, "I've given up on life and this is my public declaration of the mess I choose to dwell in."
A front porch should be a warm-up area to the rest of your house. It needs a few comfy chairs, a rocking chair or two, and an uncluttered table where a guest can set down a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. That's a setting of great conversations and closer bonds — that's an inviting space that says, "Please stay a while."
4. Do take down your holiday decorations in a timely manner.
There is a very narrow window available to you in which your decorations, from giant pumpkins to plastic light-up Santas, are suitable for display. Seasonal decor items on your front porch, before the actual day of the event, send a message to all that you've got your act together and are ahead of the curve.
As the days, weeks, and months pass after Christmas or Halloween, when your colored lights, plastic witches, or wreaths with red bows are still there, the message is quite different. "Dear world: I have lost all sensor of decorum and any hopes of maintaining any kind of illusion that I'm managing to cope with life."
Don't let this be you. You've got a 30-day grace period to take down your seasonal decorations. After that, let your neighbors' mocking and tsk-tsking of you begin.
5. Don't drag your television set out onto your porch.
It's not a private space, and it's definitely not a rec room. A front porch crosses into the domain of public territory because it's in view and lacks walls. You don't need to advertise your TV-watching habits.
Maybe it's just my own hang-up because I don't want anyone to know that I'm hooked on Bachelor in Paradise or 60 Days In. I prefer to keep my TV addictions private, thank you very much. There's also a matter of consideration at play. If you live in an urban environment, your neighbors don't want to hear the drone of whatever you're watching. Keep your noise to yourself unless you live in the country with no one around you — for miles.
And if that really is the case, do whatever you feel like doing. Your porch habits aren't going to bother anyone and these rules don't apply. But for the rest of us, practicing good porch etiquette separates us from the animals.