Make Your Home a Civilized Wilderness

James Walpole/ January 19, 2020

The house I’m staying in tonight is one of the coolest I’ve ever seen.

From the outside it’s just your normal suburban home. Your first hint that it’s anything different is the sign: “Hippies Use the Back Door.”

Immediately upon entry you leave suburbia and enter a different world.

The walls are decorated with psychedelic art. There are potted plants, cacti, and multiple fish tanks. There are candles, dreamcatchers, bookshelves, and comfortable, colorful places to sit. Three dogs jump up and paw the glass from the patio. They’re happy to see you.

Every wall is lined with knicknacks from a full (if short) lifetime of travels, music festival posters, and assorted hippie Americana. There are plenty of books – many of them about travel. This is the kind of place that will make you feel ashamed for not having more adventures.

There’s an office space perfectly (and ironically) tuned for a colorful vagabond working remotely. There’s a bedroom with a ukelele, old license plates, driftwood, seashells, and a lava lamp.

Did I mention there’s a reptile room?

Yes, a whole room devoted to lizards, tortoises, and constrictor snakes living alongside one exceptional (and, for the circumstances, exceptionally calm) resident: a hedgehog.

This home is homey and far-out, a hippie’s delight but also cozy and clean and nice-smelling. It’s the perfect combination – seemingly contradictory but really harmonious – of modern and pre-modern, civilization and wildness, bourgeois and anti-establishment.

These kinds of people who combine the “Big 5” psychological traits of openness and conscientiousness are some of the most interesting and likable people. And their home embodies a truth about human nature: we thrive in places that balance chaos and order *just right.* As psychologist (and rightful Joseph Campbell heir) Jordan Peterson points out, it’s no coincidence that our mythological idea of the ideal human environment is *The Garden* of Eden.

A garden combines the wildness of plants and animals with the civilizing influence of mind and order. It’s civilized wilderness, something we all need in each area of our lives. My hosts have the good fortune of waking up to that every day.

I’d like to see more homes like this one.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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