Friday, April 01, 2016

Going Grey In An Urban Setting: The Front of The House

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.


  1. I think the idea is to simply be unremarkable, and so present the same appearance every day. After a short time, no one will notice it because it never changes.

    1. I think you are right Reverend Paul. That is an element I had not considered (but probably should have). Any distinct changes - even something mundane as a different car out front - will attract notice. On the other side, not being remarkable - like failing to put up Christmas lights when everyone else does - is a different way to become remarkable.

  2. An interesting concept TB, I shall with interest your efforts to blend into urban greyness.

    1. So in some ways you have inspired this John. Looking at the pictures of your quite delightful garden with the backs of buildings in place helped to add to my concept of creating a world within the ordinary. I suspect the front of your dwelling (as well) belies the beauty behind it.

  3. TB - this is a post that i did for the Canadian Preppers Network (when i was running it)...and goes into great detail about "no curb appeal" which it was titled. i am re-posting here as i cannot direct you to the post because the American Preppers Network decided to shut us down after 5 good years of posts. i know eh? so here it is in quotes:

    "This topic might not sound like a prepping topic but it is one that we considered when we first purchased our home - we wanted NO curb appeal.

    Having an expensive looking house sitting proudly near the road with a beautifully-manicured lawn, a flower-filled retaining wall with a 2-car garage and a newish SUV in the driveway says only one thing to me - actually it screams "we have stuff that you want so please come and rob us!"

    Although we live in the city in a well-established neighbourhood of older and newer beautiful homes, if you saw our house while walking down the street, you would think it would be the last place on the street that you would ever bother robbing. And you'd be smart too! Because short of a few preps and a fairly well-stocked pantry...we have nothing worth stealing except for my husband's Ben Pearson Cougar Re-curve (35 lbs)...oh and there's also 2 fat and lazy cats! That's it! We don't even own a car!

    We are only now realizing that some of the choices we have made in the last several years are "prepping" choices. Our friends have called us hippies or eco-friendly or eccentric...although none of those terms describe us properly...imagine our surprise when we discovered we were "preppers"!

    But anyway - back to the NO curb appeal thing. The previous owner of our house put all of her time and effort into the backyard. Our backyard is amazing - the lot size is 220 x 60 ft and that is almost unheard of in a city. We have all of my tire gardens out back, a gazebo, 13 white pines, a beautiful little cobblestone park and a 76 year old oak tree. And the great thing is - no one can see any of it even if they came all the way up our ugly black 30ft driveway. Our backyard is completely private and we sit on a piece of the Ottawa Greenbelt that no one even knows exist. The front of our house is non-descript and although there are a few bushes out in front of our yard - I go out of my way to ensure they don't look manicured. And we mow the front lawn only when we have to. So need a pic to ya go:

    It's a pretty non-descript looking house from the bottom of the driveway.

    This next pic is for my friend Jennifer's kids - (go and check out Jennifer's awesome posts at the New Mexico Preppers Network!) Here's some snow and I promise to get some in the mail for you! (oh and yes Jennifer...that's my cutie-pie in the pic!)

    So back again to NO curb appeal! NO curb appeal is a choice for us - simply because there are much better ways to spend your effort, time and money- growing your own fruit and vegetables in your backyard to feed your family is only one of them. It seems to me to be a great waste of money to put new siding on your house in order to keep up with the Jones' - that money would be better spent on preps!

    A house with NO curb appeal does not attract robbers. And in the event of SHTF and wild marauding mobs running through the streets - there are many other houses on our street that would attract attention before ours. And we might just be able to hole up here in our non-descript little fortress and wait it out.

    So not so much about prepping per se...but something to think about...especially if you live in the city!"

    i thought you would like this post as it ties into what you are trying to do now. and i'm always around if you want to talk. sending love. your friend,

    1. Wow. That is exactly the sort of thing I am envisioning. We have a bit more of the neighbor issue as we have much closer neighbors and the fences are not all that high (city code here is 1.8 meters) but even within that ways can be made to make it seem less attractive. I really wish I had been able to see your old backyard.

      Thanks so much for post! Much love, TB

  4. I live in one of those weird locations that are semi-rural, but increasingly up against a semi-urban area, due to the influx of Section Eight welfare bums and illegal immigrants. The house is just worn enough to advertise "Not owned by the horsey set," and is rural enough to also advertise "These folks live far enough from the sheriff that they're probably armed." As far as "blending in" is concerned; this is where the "greying" part becomes a hidden blessing. We used to be meticulous about our yard care. Age though, has given us permission to say "to hell with it" more often than before. The result is an almost perfect communion between home and nature; clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy. We're in the same boat; the necessities of life trumping the desire to relocate to a more defensible position, and thus putting us at higher risk. Did you ever, in you life, think you would have to prepare for the failure of your country? Where did it all go?

    Good luck and God bless with your prep!

    1. So I never thought I would have to prepare for the sort of economic times we face Peter. I often wonder (in my less sane moments) what it felt like for the generation that lived through the Fall of Rome of the Fall of Constantinople or even (in the not too distant past) the collapse of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires - even the Meiji Restoration. All of those folks thought that life would continue on as they had seen it go for their parents and grandparents, only to see the whole thing drastically changed.

      Like you, I think I would liken our position to the sorts of plants and animals that cannot necessarily flee and so they attempt to blend in to the point that they are not visible.

      Thanks so much for the comment!

  5. Anonymous5:17 PM

    I did something and I know not what, but I drew the attention of an individual that I kept finding outside my place at the bottom of the cove just sitting in his car watching my house. I won't say exactly what I did because it could have back fired badly, but I broke him from doing it anymore.

    Thing it, it could have been something in town that I did initially that caught his attention and he followed me home.

    End result is, you can do everything right at home to blend in and still get some undesired attention.

    A person has to blend in away from home as well.

    1. That is a really good point and something I think would like to cover if I make this a series (which I think I may, as I keep coming up with these things). I have actually not driven straight home once or twice because I got concerned for someone seemingly following me for a long distance.

      Ultimately to go grey you are correct: you have to become blended in, have the light bend around you, not just your stuff.

      Thanks for stopping by! - TB

  6. I love the idea of going grey and just blending in to the environment, were we lived before our move to the small holding our house was just like any other on the street it was what happened out of sight from prying eyes that shaped our lives and made us different from those around us, we were lucky our back garden wasnt overlooked, we crammed so much into that space our own little micro small holding :-)

    1. And that is really the point Dawn. The good stuff (really, much like ourselves) is going on away from the public view. Hopefully to those passing by on the outside everything appears no different than anything else.

      Thank you for stopping by! - TB


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