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Life, love and happiness do not rest on owning your own home


Niamh Horan. Photo: David Conachy

Niamh Horan. Photo: David Conachy

Niamh Horan. Photo: David Conachy

My mom tells me that when she married my dad, they had very little to fill their home with. Bit by bit, over the years, they bought what they could along the way.

As the boom took hold, times changed, and couples sought homes kitted out with granite counters and garden decking, kitchen islands and matching furnishings. A 'get now, buy later' generation. So how did we come to this?

Last week, I came across a front-page story I wrote in January 2007. A poll found seven out of 10 of us rejected warnings of a property price collapse.

As much as bankers and politicians, we all have to think about the part we played in the madness as we try to assess where to go from here. We have to rethink our desire for materialism - our seduction by things we can't afford.

I'm 31, it's time to start saving for a place of my own, but I hope I'm setting out with the right mentality. I know if it doesn't come to pass, it isn't the end of the world. The reason I have found it difficult to get caught up in the Irish dream - this obsession with owning a home - is because it goes against what I believe is conducive to happiness.

Why do so many forgo sheer joy during their best years - travel, eating out, spending time with people they love - to live a life that utterly exhausts them in order to make money to pay for bricks and mortar to go on living in this same vicious cycle?

Is rent really such a dirty word that it leads to so many buying homes in areas that they have no connection with, simply because they can't afford to buy in the places they really long to be?

When they finally get those deeds, they kiss their loved-ones goodbye each morning, drop their kids in the creche and spend a chunk of their days stuck in a car commuting to work to pay for it all. In the words of philosopher Alan Watts: "It's all retch and no vomit." Surely, life has to be about more?

Two years ago, a palliative nurse put together the most common regrets of dying patients so that the rest of us could learn from it: "I wish I hadn't worked so hard. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. I wish that I had let myself be happier. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."

'Home ownership' certainly doesn't feature.

But the last point is interesting: "Not living the life others expected of me." Are we still intent to follow generations before us - to become a slave to the system of banks and home ownership - even if it leads to less time spent doing the things we really want to do?

You talk about the security of a home - I say that life is the most uncertain thing we know. With so many marriages ending in court or simply in apathy between people under the same mortgaged roof - the property market is only one tiny element that undermines it.

Henry Ford said the only real security a man can have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability.

To me, it is the knowledge that you are leading a life you won't live to regret. If more people could stay focused on that, it would give more peace of mind than any set of title deeds ever could.

Sunday Independent