Over on TIME.com, Martha C. White writes:
Our piles of crap don’t just contribute to reality-TV shows like Storage Wars and Hoarders — they also make us miserable, and not just when we can’t find the right remote or trip over a plastic robot our kid left on the floor.
Getting things like a new car or 60-inch flat-screen are goals many of us work toward. Unfortunately, these pursuits have the opposite effect we intend: Instead of making us happier, getting more stuff drags us down. In a new paper published in the journal Motivation and Emotion, Knox College psychology professor Tim Kasser shows, through a series of experiments spanning from six months to 12 years, that when people become more materialistic, their emotional well-being takes a dive.
“My sense is that over the course of human history there have been many ways to demonstrate that one is a successful person… our social economic system channelizes that so the way to demonstrate it is to show you’re wealthy,” he says. “The scorecard for success is about money.” In our consumer-driven culture, the system itself depends on people telling themselves they need those truck tires or that pair of shoes or whatever else Madison Avenue convinces us we need.
The connection between our stuff and our self-esteem is a two-way street: If we become less materialistic, our well-being will improve. If our well-being improves, we tend to be less materialistic.