Good news! Happiness might be cheaper than we thought.

You’ve probably seen the New York Times article “But Will It Make You Happy?” by now. It touches on quite a few blog-worthy subjects, but the gist is that Americans are beginning to focus more on the relationship between money and happiness. It’s one of a growing number of articles, blogs, papers, websites and other forms of revelation that address the connection between spending money and happiness with a critical post-recession eye. Retailers have picked up on it too, and are working a delicate balance between acknowledging consumers’ newfound thoughtfulness and their own need to keep selling stuff.

Starting with this post, HelloWallet will be joining the conversation. After all, personal finance isn’t all about asset-building. It’s also about getting the best return on investment in terms of happiness.

We all know, on some level, that money can’t buy happiness, yet that doesn’t stop most of us from feeling like we “need” new clothes, furniture, electronics and other sundries more or less constantly. The recession has provided us with inspiration and opportunity to change that. The NYT article, for instance, recounts one couple’s attempt at the 100 Thing Challenge, blogger Dave Bruno’s effort to live more simply and get others to follow. But Bruno’s is not the only method out there, nor is it the most ambitious. We’ll be talking about some of the most interesting de-cluttering projects out there on this blog in the coming months, and we’ll examine how this trend and the changes in consumption patterns it represents tie into issues of style, sustainability, psychology, economics and other topics as they arise. We’ll also profile some of the most exciting research on the money-happiness link, which has exploded in recent years.

Thinking about how to downsize is like the old game—if you were banished to a desert island and could bring just five items, what would they be? Even if you don’t think you’re ready to leave behind your carefully curated wardrobe, en suite bathroom, or other unnecessary but highly enjoyable stuff yet, thinking hypothetically about what you would keep or lose can help you realize how little you need—which is quite empowering. Leo Hickman of the Guardian thinks 10 things could suffice. How many things would it take to keep you happy? Share your list with us!