The biggest problem with housing in New Zealand is our obsession with it. We spend too much time dwelling on dwellings.
Surely there is more to life than real estate. Barbecues with friends and family have turned into property seminars. Coffee catch-ups have become amateur house evaluations. We can't walk down a street without lusting after places we will never own: "Wow! Three bathrooms."
We eviscerate ourselves for not buying $5 million properties when they were worth nothing 25 years ago.
I've heard of couples who go to open homes just to feel the buzz. Instead of relaxing in our houses, we spend hours planning fantasy renovations. Even those of us who own great homes lie in bed, flicking mindlessly through online property listings.
No one is asking the most important property question: Is it productive spending so much of our lives focused on shelter? After all, you only need a roof over your head. A house exists to tick a survival box. If it keeps water out, then great. You don't need to own the thing.
If you have a safe place to sleep and a full fridge in a beautiful country like this, you're golden. If there are good people you love in the house with you, what more do you need?
Real estate daydreaming would be fine if there wasn't a price to pay. With our heads in the housing clouds, we forget to enjoy the valuable moments of our lives. A new house might make you happier in the future, but you can definitely make yourself just as happy right now without one.
Chances are you have it pretty good here in Aotearoa, yet many of us work ourselves to death to pay for housing flasher than we need.
"The things that are essential are acquired with little bother; it is the luxuries that call for toil and effort." – Seneca the Younger
New Zealand's excessive property focus has another negative effect. It inspires annoying amateur philosophers like me to wheel out quotes from ancient Romans.
"Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants." - Epictetus
William B. Irvine recently delivered a set of lectures entitled The Stoic Path. You can find them on Sam Harris' Waking Up app. In the lesson "You are living the dream life," he calls out our focus on the houses of the rich and famous.
We spend too much time wanting what others have. If only we lived the dream life of the Mowbrays. Yet billions of people around the world would do anything to live the life you have here in New Zealand.
Most humans have it hard. Every day millions carry the water their family needs for miles on their heads back to their humble one-room shack with no floor. These people would be shocked to find out that you have running water, multiple rooms, a car, food in the fridge, and you are still unhappy with your lot.
You are living their dream life. You are also living your own dream life. All of us are headed for old age and sickness. We will lose everyone we love. Things only get harder on this planet. One day you will look back on this time and think, "those were the days". Yet right now, you have tied your happiness to winning Lotto and buying a big house.
"No person has the power to have everything they want, but it is in their power not to want what they don't have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they do have." - Seneca
The author of The Obstacle Is The Way, Ryan Holliday, once said, "possessions don't bring happiness, experiences do". Seneca put it another way: "Unblest is he who thinks himself unblest."
Many of my best memories took place on rubbish couches in horrific rentals. My children's mother bought the happiest meal I ever ate with $4 we found under the sofa in the worst house we ever lived in. We were broke and had no idea how good we had it. All we could think of was the house we needed to buy. We are no happier owning the property we do than we were without it.
Perhaps, as a nation, we could cut back on the property obsession. Instead of living for real estate, we could try enjoying the time we have now with the people we have now.
"It's not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it." – Seneca