The Keeping Up with the Joneses movie will be released shortly. How on earth do you keep up with impossibly gorgeous and ultra-sophisticated neighbours? We offer a few words of advice.

Fitting in or not fitting in

Do you want to own the same (expensive) objects and do the same things as your friends and neighbours? Are you worried about seeming less important socially than they are? Do you want to look good? Look better?

If you do, don’t worry. This desire can be found worldwide. Keeping up with the Joneses, saving face, presenting la bella figura – they’re all part of the same family. At the end of the day, most people want to fit in.

Do you have the time? How on earth can you do it? Again, don’t worry. This post gives you a few hints.

Or if you really don’t care? That’s fine, obviously. But you may find that you’re leading from the front. Paint your house an unusual colour and neighbours may suck their teeth at first. But then, strangely, another house will be painted in your colour and then another. People are impressed, and then they want to fit in.

Brighton Beach, Melbourne, Australia. the Joneses

Brighton Beach, Melbourne, Australia
© Beau Wade. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence

A note of warning

A bit of pretension helps but don’t go overboard.

Focus on the garden to impress the neighbours and passers-by

Let’s assume you want to keep up with the Joneses. It doesn’t mean that you have to have the same things as them, or be the same as them. Which is a relief, really, as our personalities are all different, and our budgets vary. What it does mean, though, is that the neighbours have to be impressed.

Where we live always has a front and a back, whether we have many acres or just a space the size of a pocket hanky. And whether it’s a garden or a park, a few steps or a courtyard, it’s possible to make an impression. Here are a few hints.

How to do it – the front

The front of your property is seen by everyone. This is where to focus your attention first. Get it right and everyone will be impressed, and be in the mood to be more impressed when they hear about the back of the property.

  1. Keep it clean. You know, pick up that windblown crisp packet and brush the front step.
  2. Make sure you’ve got colour all the year round. For people with no garden or for people with a garden: window boxes make a great statement. Spring – bulbs. Summer – pelargoniums. Autumn – heathers. Winter – winter pansies. There can be more to it than this, of course, but it gets you started.
  3. Something evergreen and architectural that will stand all weathers. The false castor oil plant, Fatsia japonica, perhaps? It's an eye-catching, low maintenance shrub with large, glossy leaves. Despite looking very exotic, it is quite hardy. Bees like its creamy white flowers in the autumn.
Fatsia japonica leaves. the Joneses

Fatsia japonica leaves
© Maksim and re-used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence

‘Architectural’ is a great gardening word to throw into the conversation. It means that the plant has a strong shape which is a presence in the garden all year round. Architectural plants can be spectacular – no bad thing if you’re looking to impress.

How to do it – the back

The back of the property is usually only seen by friends, family and people who overlook it. It’s a more private place where you relax.

What do you need to keep up with the Joneses?

  1. Somewhere comfortable to sit inside. Rattan in a conservatory or garden room always looks the part.
  2. Somewhere comfortable to sit outside. A paved outdoor area next to the house is useful and here, once again, rattan always impresses. Call it a patio if you’re feeling Spanish or perhaps a terrasse if you’re feeling a bit French. Maybe ‘courtyard’ would work for that slightly dank area outside the basement.
  3. In the sun or out of the sun? A parasol will give you that option.
  4. Colour all year round. Read our posts about autumn colour, for example, here and here. And about winter garden pots here.
  5. Something evergreen (for privacy and calm) and architectural (for impressive wow factor rating). What about this sharp individual: New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax Croce de Malta)?

Good luck with the Joneses!

Confidence plays a huge part in keeping up with the Joneses. So be confident! Don’t be apologetic!

And anyway, the Joneses may not be who they say they are