So you’ve moved into your new apartment, unpacked all of your things and started to feel settled. It doesn’t take long before your attention shifts from your immediate environment and you start to notice the little things – the way the light falls across the kitchen bench, the smell of the gum trees outside on a sunny afternoon and the muffled sound of the neighbour’s television coming right through your bedroom wall.
Depending on the positioning of your apartment, there are bound to be ambient sounds from the neighbours that you may not be able to learn to live with. Similarly, the noise of your daily activities will be transferring to them, on some level. It’s within your control to adjust your interior to minimise noise wherever possible, but it’s slightly outside of your control to get the neighbours to change their behaviour.
Here are some tips:
1. Patient Listening
Before any changes are made, the very first thing you should do is allow yourself a couple of weeks to learn the sounds of your apartment. The neighbour’s TV may catch your attention the first time you hear it, but if they only watch until 10 pm every night and you’re up until midnight, it’s probably not an issue. Conversely if you work from home and hear them leave at 8 am every day and not return until 6, you can probably crank up the music during the day, then take a more respectful approach in the evenings. Once you have a good sense of the ‘regular’ sounds, you are in a better position to work out some solutions.
2. Soundproof Your Apartment
Whether it’s noise from the neighbours or noise from outside the building, there are a few things you can do to create sound buffers inside your home. The first step is to soften everything. If you have floorboards, put some rugs down. If you have a lot of hard surfaces, consider soft or bulky furnishings. A layer of foam in the back of an artwork or a large bookshelf filled with heavy books along a common wall can muffle noise quite well.
If there’s considerable street noise, look into double-glazing the windows. If you plan to be there awhile, the sleep deprivation from the tram stop outside can have a severe impact on your mood. Double-glazing can minimise noise by up to 75% and have a 100% impact on your lifestyle.
3. Furniture positions
Carrying on from these last two options, once you get a sense of the noises and where they are coming from, maybe you can change the layout of your apartment slightly? If your TV and their TV share a common wall and there’s some overlap in the sound, can you move yours to the opposite wall? A bookshelf on that wall will muffle their TV and changing position will make yours easier to hear.
If your bedroom is next to the nursery where the neighbour’s new born cries most of the night, is there another room you can use as a bedroom for the first 6 months or so? That baby will grow up eventually after all.
4. Say Hi to the Neighbours
If you have followed the steps above and there are still noise issues, the next step is to talk to your neighbours. Apartment living is a lottery, where neighbours are concerned, and you never know who will be next door. Popping next door to say hi and introduce yourself can be a good first step and opening with an offhand question such as “…by the way, can you hear my television?” or “I hope you can’t you hear my coffee machine in the mornings …?’ are good ways of opening the conversation about noise. They may then ask the same questions back and you have the chance to let them know just how much of their life you can hear. Most of us want privacy after all, so if you can hear their conversations over dinner, they may be grateful for that information.
5. Make a Peace Treaty
If option 4 did not produce the desired results, the next step might be to flat out ask them to be a little quieter. The upstairs neighbour may have no idea that her daily 6 am star jumps are waking you up every day, just as you have no idea that your violin lessons are disrupting your neighbours weekly Skype calls. Remember, you’re the new neighbour – their lifestyle has been in place in their apartment for a while, so moving in and telling people to change their habits to accommodate for your happiness rarely goes down well.
Suggest some solutions like checking each other’s TV volumes. Maybe they can’t hear yours at sound level 18 but at 20 they can. This gives you both a guide of how high you can turn up your volume, or maybe that process reveals that Bluetooth headphones are your only solution. Negotiating with them over time changes for your violin lessons or meetings, or asking them not to vacuum early every Sunday morning may be necessary.
Requests like these require a delicate approach though so meeting them first will give you a sense of how receptive they will be to making changes and if they don’t, you may be buying yourself a bulk pack of earplugs.