TIME

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.

It’s possible that the Great Recession and subsequent anemic recovery are at least partly to blame for any materialism-related malaise Americans suffer today. Scientists know that insecurity of…

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