So the short term reality is that for a number of reasons (largely related to my current job field and schooling) we are living, and will probably continue to live for the next 3-5 years, in an urban environment. It is certainly not ideal in some senses, but in other senses it is rather tolerable. That said, I have two working philosophies: one is the concept of Ichiryo Gusoku ; the other is of not standing out in the process of doing it.
So I thought - as more of an exercise to myself as much as to anyone else - to discuss the art of "going grey" in the urban environment.
Some starting facts: We live essentially within a major urban area (although oddly enough, we are just out side of the city limits and in the county, wedged between another municipality. We are a family of five. We purchased our home and are approximately 3 years into the repayment period. It has a backyard - not a huge one, but it is equipped with some areas that lend themselves to growing crops. The surrounding neighborhood was built in the mid 1990s. We are surrounded in the near sense by a large church, a school, some open land, apartments, and some light commercial.
The goal of going grey, of course, is to not stand out. And this begins with the street facing side of your house.
Our neighborhood is a mix of homeowners and lessors; therefore there are really 3 types of yards: the very well kept, the not very well kept at all, and the somewhat maintained. The reality in any neighborhood is this: the elaborate and well maintained as well as the not very well kept at all stand out like sore thumbs. The one indicates (more than likely) a homeowner; the not very well indicates (more than likely) a lessor. And you know exactly where these folks are.
I strive to fall into the third category, the somewhat maintained. Our front yard is raked and grassed but not fully lush. Our shrubberies and flowers are not elaborate (a fine stand of lavender out front, though). The sides of the house are essentially just grassed in with an outdoor location for the trash cans on one side (and little else).
(A side benefit: maintenance time is low and watering is lowered as well. And as we live in a drouth prone area, that makes a difference in our pocket book.
I want the house to just blur into the scenery as people walk or drive by. There should be nothing that really sticks in their mind (not like the uber-trimmed grass or the desert overgrown wasteland, anyway).
We are also fortunate (and by fortunate, I mean by design) that our house is such that the wood materials are not much in evidence. Trim and under eaves are about all the wood. Why does this matter? A little maintenance will go a long way and (contrariwise) the outside will maintain for a long time without issues related to decay - again, making the house simply blend in with those around it.
The Garage: This is an area where I need to put in more effort. Our garage is the compilation of three moves over eleven years with not a lot of removal of items going on. That is one of those things that sticks out whenever it is open - and something we need to correct. Do I think we will ever reach the point of being able to park both cars inside? That would be ideal, of course - one less thing to catch the eye as folks go by and make them curious. Unfortunately I am not sure if that will ever come to pass (its one of those "two car" garages - if the cars both suck their sides in as are parked there) - but it is something worth trying for.
The goal is to simply make the house unremarkable. Not sticking out in any way from the houses around it and in fact sinking into the background. An house which, as people walk by and drive by every day, will not cause it to stick into their brain or get a bit more curious about what may or may not be there. Ideally there will be a lot going on there - but nothing that would cause anyone prima facie to stop and enquire.