In the same vein as the post above, U.S. News and World Report's Alpha Consumer blog by Kimberly Palmer has an intriguing interview with Tim Kasser, author of The High Price of Materialism about how owning things may actually make you unhappy:
Why do you think that is the case, that people who are less materialistic are also more likely to be happier?
Our perspective on people's well-being is that it depends in large part on whether or not they have their psychological needs well satisfied.
That is, just like a plant needs to have a certain amount of water, a certain amount of light, and certain nutrients from the soil and air in order to survive and thrive, people have certain psychological needs that must be satisfied if they are to be healthy and thrive.
We propose four psychological needs. The first is safety/security, which is the need to feel like you'll survive, like you are not in danger, like you will have enough food and water and shelter to make it another day. The second is competence or efficacy, which is the need to feel like you are skillful and able to do the things that you set out to do: I need to feel like a good psychologist, you might need to feel like a good journalist, etc. The third is connection or relatedness, which concerns having close, intimate relationships with other people. The fourth need is for freedom or autonomy, which is feeling like you do what you do because you choose it and want to do it rather than feeling compelled or forced to do it.
As I lay out in my book, The High Price of Materialism, people who put a strong focus on materialism in their lives tend to have poor satisfaction of each of these four needs. In part this is because of their development, but it also is because materialism creates a lifestyle that does a poor job of satisfying these needs. That is, a materialistic lifestyle tends to perpetuate feelings of insecurity, to lead people to hinge their competence on pretty fleeting, external sources, to damage relationships, and to distract people from the more fun, more meaningful, and freer ways of living life.