Should I Switch My Welcome Mat For A “Do Not Disturb” Sign?

by admin on March 20, 2014

I live in small community in a rural area with my husband and 2 teenage daughters. Today I was working from home in the kitchen and my husband was also at home, exercising in the living room, when I heard another voice and conversation begin. At first I thought the kids had gotten home from school, when I realized it was an hour early and by then I had realized it was a male voice, not female. It was my brother-in-law! My husband’s brother works just a mile from our home so I guess he decided to stop by after he got off of work. But who just walks into someone else’s house without knocking first? Well, I’ll tell you who… my mother and at least one of my daughter’s teenage friends, that’s who. I am flabbergasted at how many people have walked right into my house without knocking! My mother always used to knock, in fact, call first. But then she moved much, much closer – within walking distance – so now drops by and sometimes knocks or sometimes doesn’t. Besides being rude, aren’t these people even the least bit leery of what they might be walking in on, unannounced? Do I just keep my door locked from now on? It seems like a drastic step to have to take, or is it? Maybe in this day and age one’s door should always be locked anyway? 0221-14

Having an open, hospitable house where friends and family have been encouraged to “feel at home” comes with some unspoken caveats.   Unannounced visitors should be able to detect that you both are in the middle of an activity that is preoccupying your attention and cannot entertain them and that is when they should make a graceful exit.   I work from home myself and there are countless times where I have take command of the conversation and inform the visitor that I must get back to work. I’m sure there are times when I appear to be very business-like in my demeanor but I haven’t invited them to come when I’m available to talk and they are interrupting my work.

I’ve had family walk in the house while a serious discussion was in progress that we had no intention of making them a part of the conversation.    Very basic pleasantries are exchanged but the non-verbal signal is unmistakeable (or at least we think it is) that we were in the middle of something and we are not prepared to suspend it or include the visitor in it.   My husband and I just sit there saying nothing waiting for the person to get the clue to leave.   On occasion you have to be blunt….”I’m sorry but we are engaged in a private discussion that has not reached a conclusion yet and therefore we are not available to talk with you.”    Yes, it is awkward and potentially tense but they walked right into it and you are helping them walk right back out of it.

However, we lock and deadbolt the doors when in a frisky mood lest any of the immediate family just happen to saunter in unannounced.

{ 92 comments… read them below or add one }

CaffeineKatie March 20, 2014 at 8:57 am

I live in a relatively small town, where many people leave their doors unlocked. I always lock mine since many years ago when a young man attempted to push his way into my home, claiming that he knew the people who “really” lived there. I agree that it is rude of your friends and relatives to walk in without knocking, but you could also face something worse than rude. I’d lock my doors, and if they are upset–too bad.

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siamesecat 2965 March 20, 2014 at 9:35 am

I’d start locking the door too. The only house I go into wihtout knocking is my mom’s. But she’s ok with that but if she wasn’t, i’d ring the bell or knock. She’s usually expecting me, as I call at a certain point, since its an 8 hour drive there, so I usually just open the door, or she’s watching and sees me pull in, so no harm there.

But…I was raised you ring the bell or knock, and wait to be invited in. You don’t just walk in, although my BFF growing up’s family all make fun of me, since they are the “just walk in type” and they always tell me, you don’t have to ring the bell, its open, just come on in!

But if it continued, I’d just start locking the door, and if people don’t like it, oh well, its YOUR house, so YOU make the rules.

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Amanda H. March 20, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Same as siamesecat, I was raised to always knock (even on closed doors in my own home) or ring the doorbell, and wouldn’t think to just walk on in to anyone else’s house unless I’m already an overnight guest there. Sometimes I have to substitute a phone call for the doorbell, like at my grandmother’s house where the house is pretty big and the main door some distance from the living areas of the house (and lacking a doorbell), but the point is I don’t just walk in unannounced, and would probably speak frankly to any friends and family who made a habit of it that I would prefer they knock when coming to visit unannounced.

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Vrinda March 20, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Just what was this stupid young man inferring, that you didn’t really live there and he was coming to throw you out? The nerve of such people.

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CaffeineKatie March 20, 2014 at 6:27 pm

I think he intended to burglarize my home; when I answered the door, he tried to push it open but fortunately I had a strong grip on the edge. I think his comments about the people who “really” lived there was just an attempt at distraction; I used my mother’s famous “Stare of Death” on him until he turned and ran away.

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Weaver March 21, 2014 at 7:10 am

My assumption too when I read your first comment was that he was intending to burgle your house or worse. What other reason could there be for trying to push his way in? How terrifying! I’m glad he was an amateur and ran away.

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inNM March 21, 2014 at 10:33 am

My mother, a few years ago, came home from work to find two older men (she is in her early 60’s) sitting on her front porch, drinking and having a boisterous conversation. When she asked them who they were and what they were doing there, they claimed that they were friends of X; which could be true but X was the previous owner of the house and had not lived there for at least 30 years. Yet when my mother explained this to them, they refused to leave saying the house belongs to their friend and they were waiting for him to get home. It took the threat of having the police show up before they packed up their booze and left, and left very upset, mind you, because they couldn’t see the friend their friend of 30 years who they had obviously not kept in touch with and had not known had moved.
The moral of the story: sometimes that clueless person forcing their way onto your properly may be coming to do you harm, and sometimes he or she is only a clueless boor who refuses to acknowledge that their friend/family member moved. Neither is a good reason to let them in your house.

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AE March 20, 2014 at 9:06 am

Family or not, they should ask before entering, it’s just common courtesy and respect. My sister and I have full access to each others homes at any time, but outside an emergency we’d never come in without explicit permission. Heck, I don’t even go into my teen’s room unannounced and it’s my house…again, courtesy.
I think a nice, non-confrontational word with family members and the teenage friend is in order. “Hey, I’m glad you feel comfortable in my home, but I *really* need for you to knock. :) ” Sometimes people just don’t think.
Otherwise, there are some electronic locks available that come with guest settings so you can turn on the guest code only when you’re expecting company. That’s really handy when you want to be hospitable, but also maintain your privacy.

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Wild Irish Rose March 20, 2014 at 9:14 am

My son’s GF used to have a key to our house, until she did some things that I’m really having trouble letting go (another story for another post). She always just walked in, but we never cared because we knew her and we were usually in our TV room with the door shut. We always keep our doors locked, because for one thing we can’t hear them open from the TV room, and for another, and for another, I was brought up that way and never changed. Now when visitors come, they must knock, and it’s never been a problem. My in-laws live in the same town we do, and I’m not even sure they have a key to our house, but they have never just entered uninvited or unannounced. We have a key to their house which we use only when they’re out of town and we are taking care of their cat. Otherwise, doors are locked and no one just walks in. Any way you want to look at it, though, I think it’s incredibly rude and presumptuous just to walk in to ANYBODY’S house, unless you are expected.

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GreenBrd March 20, 2014 at 9:34 am

I think it’s entirely reasonable to say, “Hey, I really need you to knock and wait rather than just walking in the house – you startled the daylights out of me! It’s really disconcerting to just suddenly find someone here when I’m not expecting anyone – I’m sure you understand!” The people walking in aren’t thinking about how it feels from your side, so let them know.

And yes, lock your doors – you don’t want some salesman or worse wandering through your house to find you.

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Lo March 20, 2014 at 9:38 am

I have never experienced the culture of unlocked doors. Nice that it still exists some places. Though is there any immediate downside to locking yours? Assuming all family members have a key, I would think this solves the problem.

In my own experience, unanounced visits are a thing of the past. Where we were kids living down south this was a common experience but living near Big City up north it’s unheard of for someone to just ring the bell without calling first. If it weren’t my spouse and I would still discourage it, as we are both introverted and private and always want to be able to prepare for a visit. In fact a rule in our house is that one informs the other of company before making plans or if someone is being brought back to the house a quick call-ahead is appreciated, “I’m bringing so-and-so back with me.” It’s not about permission it’s about courtesy.

So I would say, your house, your rules. Locking the door will get the point across. It’s not particularly drastic in 2014 and it’s not unfriendly at all.

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The Elf March 20, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Well, I’ve locked myself out of my house a few times by accident! I’ll pop outside to take out the trash or get the mail or whatever and accidentally lock the door behind me. If I kept he door unlocked when I was home, I wouldn’t have this problem.

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badkitty March 21, 2014 at 6:28 pm

A deadbolt is the solution for that situation, as it can’t be accidentally done up from the outside. It also makes a lovely firm noise when you’re locking it, so salesmen know that you’re *really* done with them ;)

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startruck March 20, 2014 at 9:49 am

oh my gosh this is a pet peeve of mine! and haven”t you noticed people do this at the worst times! lol nothing frustrates me more than having someone just show up at my house. i love having company, but only company iam prepared for. also, i never go to someones house without calling first. my husbands family does this.we started locking our front door as well, but i have a window right next to my computer and i cant tell you how many times ive been sitting there and a sudden knock on my window has scared me to death before i realized it was my father in law! his brother does the same thing, just shows up at our house out of the blue. but yes i would start locking my door if i were you.

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WMK March 20, 2014 at 9:54 am

Since I’m currently home during the day (most of the time by myself), I’ve noticed the volume of strange doorknockers that come around my neighborhood and, it’s for that reason my doors remains locked at all times.

Though we don’t mind if people pop over to see us, we do ask that people give us a call before they come. Mostly, so that we can make sure that we’re home at the time and they don’t make a wasted trip if we’re not. This also allows us to let people know that it wouldn’t be a good time if we are in the middle of something. *wink**wink*

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PWH March 20, 2014 at 11:41 am

Our neighbourhood recently had an experience that has made me lock the door when I get home in the evening from work and keep it locked on weekends. A salesman showed up at a woman’s door attempting to get her to purchase something, she declined and he subsequently left. A short time later she left the house with her younger daughter to run errands, leaving an older child home. The salesman returned once they left and forced himself into the home (the door was unlocked), threatening the child who was there. Luckily she had already called the police, seeing the door open with a stranger behind it, and the man was caught a short distance later (after he fled). Given this and like WMK stated, the large number of random door-to-door people out there, I am forced to keep my door locked even if we are home. This means that every visitor has to knock (even my husband’s best friend who used to knock and then saunter in). This way, it is also up to me if I want to answer the door. Depending on the hour the visitor arrives or if we aren’t expecting anyone, sometimes I just won’t answer it.

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WMK March 24, 2014 at 11:34 am

I grew up on a busy road in a family of nine people. Growing up, we didn’t lock our front door because someone always seemed to be home.

We did have an incident of someone just walking into our house that, I’m sure, he will never forget! The kids of our next-door neighbors were having a party while their Mom and Dad were out of town. One of the kids’ friends attending the party entered OUR house instead of the house next door. Shadow, our black Labrador Retriever, chased him out of our house when the kid didn’t get the door closed in time. We ended up having to call next door and make sure the kid was OK. Guess that taught him not to do THAT again! ;-)

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lakey March 20, 2014 at 10:19 am

I’d lock my doors. I think it is rude to go into another person’s house without knocking, including relatives. You could be undressed, sleeping, showering, having an argument, and on and on.

Also, the fact that you are in a rural area doesn’t mean that there aren’t criminals or people with mental health or substance abuse problems. In my area these problems are occurring in rural areas. And I’m not saying people with mental health issues are dangerous, they seldom are, but the previous commenter mentioned a man going into her house thinking someone else lived there. It sounds like he was more confused than dangerous, but this is scary.

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Cami March 20, 2014 at 10:23 am

If you lock your doors, this problem would not exist. If you don’t lock your doors, then you need to tell people that they must knock first. If they refuse to knock first… Then you lock your doors.

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AvidReader March 20, 2014 at 10:27 am

If you want people to respect the door as a boundary and to stop barging in, please keep your door locked at all times.

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Cecilia March 20, 2014 at 10:27 am

I, too, grew up in small community where doors were often left unlocked (even at night when the family was sleeping) and neighbors/family would occasionally just walk in. We came home one day to find my aunt in the living room watching television (this was mid-80’s), waiting for us to return from where ever it was we had gone.

However, after 2 rather disturbing incidents, I always lock my doors. It’s become an automatic reflex- as soon as I shut the door, I reach around and turn the locks. I also lock car doors as soon as I am in the car.

Short version of my disturbing incidents- as a child, I thought I had dreamed someone being in our home. When we got up the next morning, the door was open and things had obviously been rummaged through. The second was more recent- I came out of the shower and my dog was having a fit in the kitchen, barking and growling. He almost never barks in the house unless something is up. Someone was turning the carport door handle, trying to get in. I had recently began locking my doors so they were unsuccessful. I called the police and they found the people, trying to get into another neighbor’s home!

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ChicagoChica March 20, 2014 at 10:50 am

Maybe it’s just because I’ve primarily lived in urban areas, but even when my family moved out to a rural house in the middle of Amish country, two miles from a small town, we ALWAYS locked the doors. Even if my visitors were welcome, I still didn’t want them letting themselves in!

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Bibianne March 20, 2014 at 10:55 am

We live in a “safe” university town. Regardless, I have all my doors locked. Last thing I need is for someone to just waltz in unannounced. Oh and my brother and I were brought up to KNOCK and wait for an answer before entering.

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Calli Arcale March 20, 2014 at 11:17 am

I live in a safe neighborhood, but I’m still in the habit of keeping the doors locked unless someone’s outside or the kids are playing at a friend’s house and would need to get back in. Consequently, this situation is unlikely to occur. That said, yeah, it’s pretty rude to just walk into someone’s house unannounced if you’re not a resident or houseguest. I startle easily, so finding an unexpected person in the house would not be pleasant, even if it was someone I loved.

Since this situation has gone on for a while, I don’t think you can just start locking the door and not expect some pushback, though. So put in your polite spine, and the next time they walk in unannounced, explain that you love visiting but you have a lot of things you need to get done, and when they come by unannounced it makes it harder to get those things accomplished. Ask if they wouldn’t mind coming around later instead. And if they barge in on an private conversation, say exactly what Admin said! That’s perfect.

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Lesley B March 20, 2014 at 11:19 am

I have my doors locked at all times when I am home, alone, with my son and when my husband is home as well. People who know me know that I hate unannounced visitors, and everyone calls before they come over. If my mom is at a store nearby she will phone before coming over, to make sure it is a convenient time. I enjoy having friends over (when they are expected) and usually say yes. The locked doors make me feel safe and secure, and I feel quite ill at ease when they are not locked. Ringing the doorbell does not take vary long! When my son gets old enough to be out without me, he will get a key and be expected to use it. I live in a safe neighbour hood, but lock my doors anyway. I also do not just walk into friends or neighbours houses, unless explicitly asked to do so.

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Justine March 20, 2014 at 11:26 am

I too lock the door always. Just an extra safety measure too. My in-laws don’t understand it and, thank goodness, we don’t live in the same small town they do – they are the ones who always just walk right in. Of course, they are a different generation too.

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Miss-E March 20, 2014 at 11:31 am

Yes. Lock your doors. It solves your problem without any risk of hurting anyone’s feelings. If anyone asks make a vague comment about safety and be done with it.

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Mary March 20, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Even when we lived in a small town of 500 I’ve always locked our doors. While we were living there there was a home invasion only thirty miles away in an even more rural area. The whole family was killed. Fortunately the killers were convicted and they admitted they selected that house because the back door was unlocked.

I would just lock the door all the time to keep people out.

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The Elf March 20, 2014 at 12:19 pm

I have one friend who does this, but only when he’s expected anyway. A few others have a tendency to drop by without calling first, and this drives me crazy. I commented to them that they should call ahead – even if it is from the street in front of the house – so we know to hurry up and put our pants back on. That put a stop to it.

I’d mention to BIL (and anyone else that does it) that you would really prefer if they knocked before entering so they don’t startle you.

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siamesecat 2965 March 20, 2014 at 12:27 pm

I forgot to add, I always lock my door. I live in an apt, and share an outside door with my downstairs neighbor. She’s elderly, and the door can only be opened with a key, which only we and apt management have. And can’t be left unlocked. So even with that, and the fact I’m upstairs, first thing I do when I get home, is lock my door. I just feel safer that way. I’ve noticed other people in the surrounding buildings will leave that outside door ajar, or open overnight, but thankfully neighbor and I both agree to leave it shut.

Of course, if I’m bringing stuff in in multiple trips, I’ll leave it ajar, but i’m back and forth. Once i’m done, its shut.

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Arila March 20, 2014 at 12:39 pm

I do walk in some people’s front doors, but only when they are having a party, and are likely to be engaged already with other guests (So, after the posted start time, for sure). Any other time, I have usually called ahead if inviting myself over, and when I’m the only guest (even if invited and within the agreed time frame), I knock.

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girl_with_all_the_yarn March 20, 2014 at 12:53 pm

I didn’t used to lock my apartment door, but then my neighbor started taking ambien. He also worked a night shift, so he slept during the day.

One day I was working from home when my doorknob turned. He walked in, muttered something about snakes, opened my refrigerator and started drinking soy sauce directly from the bottle. I have dealt with sleepwalkers before (thank you former roommate!) so I realized what was going on and somehow managed to convince him that the magic potion he needed to be safe from the mutant snakes was back in his own apartment.

After that I started locking the door.

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tatertot March 21, 2014 at 10:09 pm

I realize that at the time it was probably pretty creepy, but your telling of the story made me laugh.

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BarensMom March 20, 2014 at 1:15 pm

In this day and age, doors should be locked as a security measure. In the OP’s case, it certainly would solve the privacy issue.

I live in a middle class neighborhood that has had several “home invasion” robberies. So, for our own protection, everyone not only locks their doors, but keeps their alarms activated in the “stay” mode. No one here likes it, but it’s better than the alternative.

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Margaret March 20, 2014 at 1:16 pm

I live on a farm. The only time that people around here lock their doors is if they are away on a trip (as in gone for the night, and sometimes we don’t even lock the door if it’s just a night or two), or on the rare occasion if there has been some kind of police warning of a criminal in the area, which has only happened two times that I am aware of.

However, no one just walks into the main house. If you go in, you just stand in the porch and call the person or say, “Anybody home?”. If they don’t respond, then you leave. And usually, you would knock or ring a doorbell first and only open the door to make sure they heard you. Sometimes a neighbour has a reason for going in the house (e.g. they are there to get something), in which case it is okay for them to go in and get it. But that would be something understood or arranged ahead of time.

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Josie March 20, 2014 at 1:24 pm

I work at home and my doors are always locked. It’s just safer and easier.

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Marie March 20, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Why would you feel it’s odd to lock your doors?

1. It keeps out thieves
2. It keeps your privacy, to which you have a right

If you’re a bit more daring, walk around your house in your underwear or a bathrobe. If people walk in on you and you pretent to be extremely flustered, they will apologize and you can ask them to please knock or call next time, so you will not be put in the same situation again… I once did the same and it worked like a charm.

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padua March 20, 2014 at 1:30 pm

i leave my doors unlocked. and i don’t mind when family come by and let themselves in. other members of my family feel the same way. so if you’d like a less relaxed policy regarding visitors, locking the door will send a very concrete message about what you’d like them to do.

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JO March 20, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Lock, lock, lock! If anyone protests, say you feel you need to protect your safety. I once had someone walk right into our apartment and start wiping his feet on the shoe mat! As I’m staring in disbelief, he looks up and says, “oh, isn’t this so-and-so’s apartment. I coldly and firmly and stated “no,” and pointed next door (a new neighbor had recently moved in). The stranger didn’t even apologize! Just said oh ok, and walked back out. Honestly! Our doors have since stayed locked.

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doodlemor March 20, 2014 at 3:04 pm

We live in a small town, and leave our doors unlocked during the daylight hours because my husband and son are going in and out frequently. Our two dogs are very alert to anyone in the vicinity also, and they are big dogs with a combined weight of about 150 lbs or so. Once it gets dark I either lock the door, or set the alarm on “stay.”

Years ago we had an incident of a drunken man trying to get into our locked home in the middle of the night. I woke up when I heard someone pulling on our front door. I didn’t wake my husband right away because he had been extra tired, and ran down the stairs to see what was going on. In the light of a streetlamp I could see a very tall form pulling on our door. I immediately turned on the porch light which was directly beside the door, thinking that the light would frighten the intruder away. Instead the man just blinked his bleary, boozey looking eyes a bit, and tried the door again.

At that point I called up the stairs to my husband to call 911, that a drunk was trying to get into the house. My husband called, and came down to insist that I wake him immediately if this ever happened again.

The police came quickly, but didn’t see him right away. The guy had gotten tired of trying to get in, and went to sit on the porch furniture. Since this was not summer, we had put the cushions away and the only part of the furniture on the porch was the frames. When the man sat down in the frame of the furniture his bum went all the way down to the floor of the porch, and he was pretty well stuck there. The police couldn’t see him due to the bushes in front of the porch.

My husband went out the back door and around to the front to show the police where the man was. We assumed that the man was just a harmless drunk, but we could hear the police question him very carefully to make sure that the drunkenness wasn’t an act.

We never heard whether the drunken guy was arrested or not – I suspect that the local police may just have called his relatives to come and take him home.

If the door hadn’t been locked, the drunken man would have been a nasty surprise in the house. Some people that we know a few blocks away didn’t lock their doors at night until they opened a coat closet one morning and found a man sleeping there – he claimed that he thought he was home.

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Margo March 20, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Have you spoken to these people?
I agree that getting into the habit of locking the doors would solve the problem, but given this is your mother and brother in law, surely the first step would be to speak to them and explain that while you generally like to see them, you would prefer that they knock or ring, and wait, rather than letting themselves into the house, or that they telephone you to ask if it’s OK to call round, in which case you may tell them yes, come on down, I’ll leave the door on the latch for you.

With your daughter’s friend, I think you need to speak to your daughter and make her aware that unless they are actually with her, they should not let themselves in. If the friend does it again, then think it would be fine for you to speak to them directly, at that time, and say that while you’re happy they feel welcomed in your home, you would prefer that they not just let themselves in, but either call ahead, or ring the doorbell.

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Margaret March 20, 2014 at 3:25 pm

We have always locked our doors in areas where most neighbors don’t. You think you know your neighbors but you really don’t.

A few years ago, a neighbor across the street was in her back yard with her kids when someone came in the unlocked front door and stole her painkillers (recent surgery) from her purse. They start locking their doors.

A few months after that, same neighbor comes home to find house ransacked and vandalized. It appears the back door wasn’t locked. Their very large sofa-eating dog was let out of his cage. Crime techs came to gather evidence. While everyone suspects the teenaged son of a neighbor one street over, not much can be proven. One thing was certain: only people who knew the very large sofa-eating dog was harmless would have let it out of its cage.

Neighbors got fancy deadbolts and started using their alarm system again.

OP can tell her relatives and neighbors that it’s a safety issue.

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bloo March 20, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Having a really spacey looking guy try to open my door at 10pm made me glad that I was raised to habitually lock doors. I grew up in a large suburb where we didn’t know our neighbors very well. All doors (house and auto) are always locked.

The doors are only unlocked if someone is working outside, exercising, checking mail, taking out/in garbage cans, but then locked right afterwards.

The DS keeps losing the memo on this. Last nite, checking the doors before bed, the front door was not only unlocked (at 10pm!) but slightly open. He absolutely cannot seem to remember to lock/close the door. He’s 18 and I fully expect a stranger to, at some point, come waltzing into our house. I also fully expect a phone call that important stuff will have been stolen from his vehicle since he can’t seem to remember to lock doors!

DH, DD & I are pretty vigilant but I have to shake my head at my son!

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Daphne March 20, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Locking your doors really isn’t that big of a deal. Maybe you just think it is because that’s what your relatives want you to think? But if you still feel weird or bad about it, just tell them that you heard a story about someone being robbed while they were home because the front door was unlocked and now you feel paranoid about it. And if your visitors make a stink about that–you should ask yourself why they are offended by the idea that you want to feel safe in your own home.

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mpk March 20, 2014 at 4:05 pm

I always lock my doors. And I got in the habit of keeping my keys with me whenever I leave the house. Even when going to the mailbox. Heard about children locking their parents out, and didn’t want that happening.
I used to get up at 5:30 and exercise with the t.v. Wouldn’t put on any lights. One morning there was someone checking the windows to see if they were unlocked. Lived in an apartment complex, so I called the police. Would have no matter where I lived, but I figured he was checking everyone’s, trying to get in somewhere. So, keep windows along with doors locked. You just never know nowadays.
My husband used to leave the patio doors open in the morning when he went to take a shower, while the rest of us were sleeping. Couldn’t understand why it upset me because he didn’t think crimes happened in the morning. Don’t know why he thought that.
And, when I’d stay with my sister, her husband would leave the garage doors open and the door into the house unlocked. Had a fit when he’d come home and I’d have it locked. I just don’t feel safe in an unlocked home where anyone can walk in.

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JO March 21, 2014 at 12:12 pm

I completely understand your point, but wouldn’t it have been better to have a conversation with your brother in law first, while staying in his home? Certainly it isn’t unreasonable to feel safer with the doors locked, but it seems to me that locking the doors in somebody else’s home, when it is not their custom, is rather presumptuous. What if he wasn’t in the habit of carrying his house key with him? I’d probably have a fit too if I came home and found that a guest had locked me out of my own house.

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gb March 20, 2014 at 4:24 pm

This is part of how I got out of my lease in a very undesirable apartment… my manager thought that walking in on a naked, out of the shower, woman was okay because we have the same body parts. She even right it was crazy of me to insist age schedule an appointment with me before!

Knocking is so easy.

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Marozia March 20, 2014 at 4:55 pm

I’m sorry, but the days of unlocked doors are over.
Lock your doors.

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Alice March 20, 2014 at 6:39 pm

I’ve had the key to a very close family friend’s house for a couple of years now, he and his family always insist that I pop in whenever I feel like it but despite the invitation I still always call ahead to let them know I’m dropping by, even if the door is unlocked or wide open I pop my head in and ask “can I come in?” before stepping inside.

Arriving unannounced and/or just waltzing into another person’s home uninvited is just rude.

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Cathy March 20, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Our door is always locked unless we’re working out front in the yard. When I was growing up, my folks always left the door unlocked all day (not at night) and the garage door open. You can’t do that anymore. My son is the only person who walks in (he has a key). Everyone else has to knock. It’s not only a courtesy issue, it’s for privacy. My hubs walks around in his undies. I don’t want people walking in on that! LOL And, of course, safety. You just never know who’s walking around, even in a “good” neighborhood. So, I think the OP needs to train people by keeping the door locked.

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Kat March 20, 2014 at 8:05 pm

I always lock my doors, even when I’m at home, and only tell people to let themselves in (and leave the door unlocked for that express purpose) if they’ve told me when they’re arriving and there’s a particular reason I won’t be able to open the door when they arrive. I can’t get used to “let yourself in!” households — I joke with my friends that I follow the Vampire Rule: I must be invited in, explicitly, before I can cross the threshold. Even if I’ve already been visiting and just popped out for a moment, to run to my car or to smoke, I almost always re-knock and wait to be re-invited (though I can open the door myself), out of sheer force of habit.

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Cecilia March 21, 2014 at 8:20 am

The Vampire Rule- I love it! Of course, that only works for Charlaine Harris vampires. Apparently if vampires sparkle, they can come in your house (or window) uninvited! :)

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tatertot March 21, 2014 at 10:28 pm

I call shenanigans! The Vampire Rule (so I’ve been told) only applies to the first time the vampire wishes to enter the household. Of course, the privilege may be formally revoked at a later time. Correct me if I am wrong.

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Kat March 22, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Good point! I’m a vampire with a goldfish memory for invitations!

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Cat March 20, 2014 at 8:42 pm

I am with everyone else. Lock your doors. I live alone and keep the doors locked. Too many people see a woman alone as a target and, with home invasions, even a whole family is vulnerable.
I don’t open my door until I know who is there and what they want. I also have a double-barreled twelve gage if anyone won’t be deterred by a locked door.

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Cecilia March 21, 2014 at 8:18 am

Amen. I also have a shotgun should someone try to enter my home uninvited.

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Cat March 24, 2014 at 10:33 am

I also have an outdoor sign which reads, “If you are found here at night. You will be here in the morning.”

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NostalgicGal March 21, 2014 at 12:08 am

I used to live big city urban. The number of walkins and creepers took a major hike. I started locking my front door (people watch to see if they see anything going on, then try the door and walk in; or they do see you are there but come in anyway, quietly, and raid the house while you’re in another room or something (creeper) or worse). I had a turn knob deadbolt, had a knob on the inside and key lock outside. If I let you into my home I locked the door behind you, and showed you the knob. You could leave any time you wanted, but my door was to be locked.

Strange knockers… some would case the place by knocking first to see if they get a response, then come in or break in. They could have some pamphlets or something to hand out if they did get a response…

Here is rural and you don’t walk in without making some kind of noise, and you don’t open a door because a lot have small pets or small children and you do NOT let those out.

You just don’t walk in. I did ONCE but it was for my housesitter gig and I though they were gone and the few lights I seen were not good… I had their auxillary key in one hand and opened door, LOOKED AND LISTENED then spoke up. They were embarrassed only that they had told me the wrong night they were leaving so I came the night before they left. Oh.

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tatertot March 21, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Your entire post could be a Neil Gaiman short story.

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NostalgicGal March 22, 2014 at 1:07 am

I had been locking my door for about six years when the house third up had a walkin creeper that found them at home and pulled a gun. Nobody got shot, but when the police came around, it seems that this person had walked the neighborhood with some pamphlets, and skipped ours and the one at the corner because we had DOGS that were big or sounded big and the dogs both woofed when they went past. Next one up was locked, the next one up after that was locked, and the next one wasn’t locked and no answer to knock, and they walked in the front door…

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MichelleP March 21, 2014 at 3:09 am

I was always in the habit of locking doors; my ex drove me crazy when he wouldn’t lock them! I live in a very safe community and still do it.

I have the issue of people calling/coming over during the day when I’m asleep; I work night shift. I simply can’t get it through to some members of my family that when people work at night they have to sleep during the day. Loved the volume off button on the phone and a deadbolt.

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Mya March 21, 2014 at 4:03 am

As a brit I have, thankfully, never encountered this. It is very unusual in southern England to leave ANYTHING unlocked and, being british, hardly anyone just ‘walks in’ without knocking (My sisters parents-in-law aside). If I were you I’d make it clear to unannounced guests that you’d rather they had given you warning of their impending visit. It’s a difficult situation because you don’t want to alienate family but it isn’t rude to set boundaries. If your teenagers friend walks in then your teen needs to tell them they have to knock – it’s YOUR house. As this situation clearly makes you uncomfortable start locking your doors. You don’t have to justify yourself to anyone. You imply that locking the doors is mildly inconvenient but I honestly can’t imagine why as culturally I have locked the door behind me my whole life so I fail to see the inconvenience.

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just4kicks March 21, 2014 at 4:19 am

Something horrible happened just last week to my mom’s best friend. She lives alone and someone rang her bell. She looked out a window and didn’t recognize the man so she didn’t answer the door and went back to watching tv. A few minutes later, she heard the blinds rattling in her bathroom and went in to find the man climbing through her window!!! She yelled “what the hell do you think you’re doing?!!?” and he was startled and took off running. She called the police and is having an alarm system installed next week. It could have been alot worse, but she is now, rightfully so, terrified to be in her own home.

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Mya March 21, 2014 at 7:51 am

This sounds like a typical opportunistic burglar technique. They ring the doorbell or knock to check if anyone is at home, then if no-one answers they break in. As the lady in your story didn’t answer I guess he assumed she was out and thought he’d try his luck. If she’d answered the door he likely would have asked for someone that doesn’t exist then claim ‘Sorry, I must have the wrong address.’ and move on to the next house. I once caught a bloke in a white van stopping in front of my driveway (my car was in the garage at the time so the driveway was empty) and when I went out to challenge him he blurted something about ‘Do you know anyone that wants a mattress’ then sped off. I didn’t get his plate or I might have reported him.

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just4kicks March 21, 2014 at 1:21 pm

This friend of my mom’s has an elderly mother in a nursing home, who when she is well enough, can come stay with her for a day or two. She had a ramp installed outside her home for easier transport when her dear mother does come for a visit. The price seem to think this is why she was targeted, an invalid that primarily resides there. Makes it all the more frightening…And thank God her mom wasn’t visiting when this happened!

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just4kicks March 21, 2014 at 1:22 pm

The POLICE….not price….oops.

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Cat March 24, 2014 at 10:37 am

Don’t open the door-yell through it, “I can’t open the door right now. I am cleaning my guns and my hands are covered in gun oil.”

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ketchup March 21, 2014 at 7:03 am

In the Netherlands it’s very uncommon to have front doors that can stay unlocked. Most of our doors can only ever be opened with a key. It’s impossible to just walk into our house without a key, and our friends that have one wouldn’t even consider walking in without knocking. And you can’t even reach the back door.

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Weaver March 21, 2014 at 7:49 am

This reminds me a bit of the episode of Sex and the City where Charlotte’s MIL, Bunny, seemed to think she could waltz into Charlotte and Trey’s apartment whenever she felt like it. Trey was a bit of a doormat about it, but it drove Charlotte up the wall – until one day Bunny marched in to find Charlotte and Trey having a jolly time in the bedroom. She stuttered and stammered and backed away, never to visit again without an express invitation!

OP, I don’t think it would be at all drastic or unreasonable to keep your door locked from now on. That way, you regain a bit of control. A few times of answering the door and either saying “Oh hi! We’re not busy at the moment, so come on in!” Or “Oh, hello! This isn’t a good time I’m afraid, we’ll have to catch up later”, depending on whether or not it’s convenient for you to have visitors, should soon get your friends and relations into the habit of calling, or at least knocking, first.

This whole thing has me curious, though. Is it more common in the US to have a mortice lock on the front door rather than a yale lock? I’ve lived in about twelve different houses/flats in the UK, and all but two of them had yale locks, or a combination of yale and mortice, meaning that when the door is shut, then from the outside it’s to all intents and purposes locked as well.

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just4kicks March 21, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Was that the episode where Trey was sick and Bunny and Charlotte have a knock down drag out over who is going to put the mentholated rub on his chest???
The way Bunny storms out chattering to herself is hysterical. :)

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Weaver March 25, 2014 at 6:34 am

The very one! For sheer hilarity, one of my favourites :)

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Crochet Addict March 21, 2014 at 7:57 am

I’ve gotten in the habit of locking all doors and ground floor windows. I work from home, so I just feel safer that way. When my husband gets home, he also locks the door. Our neighborhood is relatively safe, but I don’t like the idea of just anyone wandering in. I will unlock it if I’m expecting someone, though pretty much all of our family and friends knock. My grandparents and great-grandparents lived on farms right across the street from each other, and never locked their doors. Until one day they were in the fields and two of the neighbor’s sons got into the 50 pound bag of flour Great Gramma kept. They had flour everywhere, and Great Gramma had quite a time trying to clean, as this was in the days before vacuum cleaners, so the broom didn’t do much good and mopping turned it into glue. For some reason, that story more than anything sinister reminds me to lock my doors.

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Mary March 21, 2014 at 8:27 am

When my daughter was young we lived in an apartment. Her best friend lived across the hall from us and the door was frequenly unlocked when the girls were going back and forth between apartments. A couple of years later I had remarried and was 7 months pregnant with my son, the door was unlocked, and the man who lived downstairs walked into the apartment. I was on the phone with my mom at the time but it startled me. He did apologize but after that the doors were kept locked at all times.

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Shannan March 21, 2014 at 8:52 am

I keep my doors locked all the time and I live outside the city limits of a small town of 40,000 people. My husband walked out of our front door and forgot to lock it one day. I was home alone with our 6 year old son when I heard the door bell ring. Next thing I know a mentally retarded man walks in & starts walking through our house. LLOCK YOUR DOORS!!!!

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JO March 21, 2014 at 12:22 pm

I know you didn’t intend it that way, but please – the term “mentally retarded” is incredibly offensive. “Developmentally disabled” is the PC term.

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AuntieEm March 21, 2014 at 9:38 am

Last week a man fleeing from police entered a house down the street from me and took a family of 5 (including small children) hostage for 7 hours. It’s a nice, safe neighborhood. The man was being chased by police from an incident in another city.
Moral of the story: small town Wisconsin in a nice neighborhood doesn’t matter to a criminal who isn’t from here and doesn’t know it’s a nice neighborhood. Nor does it matter to any criminal, lock your doors.

In another vein, my father used to come in all the time without knocking. My husband and I bought the family home from him, so he felt comfortable just coming in. That stopped when my husband mentioned to my father that if he didn’t knock or ring the bell he’d never get a grandchild ;)

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NostalgicGal March 22, 2014 at 1:27 am

About your father, Oh I love that one! [like] (made my own button)

About the other one Hope it turned out well and they made the charges stick.

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Kate March 23, 2014 at 5:25 am

I agree! The suburb next to me is considered one of the nicest suburbs in my state. Think multi-million dollar houses, private schools, BMWs and Mercedes in every driveway. Last year, an elderly man had a heart attack and died in that suburb after his home was robbed with him inside it. Just because it’s a ‘nice area’ doesn’t mean it’s surrounded by a criminal-proof force field.

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Miss-E March 25, 2014 at 8:36 am

If anything, knowing it’s a nice neighborhood may make someone MORE inclined to try and get in. No one is robbing anyone in the ghetto where they don’t have nice things…but those beautiful new mcmansions? Those are probably full of valuable goods!

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