How Early Is Too Early To Ring The Doorbell For Anything Besides An Emergency?

Unless somebody’s hurt or the house is on fire, the doorbell can wait.

Woman ringing the doorbell

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Southerners may pride ourselves on our come-on-over, more-the-merrier approach to hosting and entertaining, but even our extravagant hospitality has its limits. And while we’d never turn away a neighbor seeking a cup of sugar, we’re also strong believers that a knock on the front door or the ring of a doorbell should come at a civilized hour.

In the spirit of respecting people’s sleep and often chaotic morning routines, it’s wise to accept traditional business hours as a good parameter for calling on your neighbors or friends. Unless there’s an emergency, don’t knock or ring the doorbell until 9 a.m. (Close friends and family may be fine with you coming over earlier, but assumptions should never be made here; communication is key.) 

People may define an emergency differently, but for etiquette purposes, a forgotten stick of butter for your bake sale contribution does not constitute a crisis—at least until nine o’clock. On the other hand, if someone is hurt, the house is in danger, or a loved one has been found wandering the neighborhood, ring right away. 

Of course, there’s more to good doorbell etiquette than the time of day at which you ring it. No matter the hour, you should never drop by unannounced. Whether a work call or sleeping baby, an unexpected doorbell can be disruptive. An unplanned doorbell or knock may also startle someone who is home alone. That’s why it’s important to check in before you stop by. This way, the exhausted parents can direct you to let yourself in rather than knock or ring, folks working from home can offer you a meeting-free window to pop in, and people living alone can anticipate your visit with excitement, rather than being caught off guard.

And because every rule comes with its exceptions… if Dolly Parton ever finds herself in Southern Living’s neck of the woods, she may ring our doorbell at any hour.

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