There are several factors that contribute to this failing. The first is that I am convinced that there's a gene that codes for packrat behavior. My father hoards food (he's a VERY good mormon, and has an entire garage filled with stored food). His father hoarded, I kid you not, construction materials. We're talking lumber and roofing materials here. I manage to mostly channel my instincts into hoarding information, which is at least a lot more compact.
Then there's the issue of waste. I feel really guilty throwing out anything that's in working order, even if it's totally useless, because I know that our society is terribly wasteful and that we put far too much stuff into landfills and so on. This leads to things like keeping the stupid AOL tins because I might use them in a craft project someday or something. Likewise, there's a part of me that knows it's just wrong to throw out edible food, because, y'know, there's starving people out there.
But the worst contributor is the fact that objects hold memories. I have a lot of stuff that reminds me of people or events or times in my life, and I worry that if I got rid of it, those memories would never be prompted to rise to the surface. I don't have a great memory for details. Abstract patterns, general concepts -- no problem, but details... often the details fade. Except when the memory gets triggered by something.
Or, as Kung Fu Monkey puts it, I have chi invested in my belongings. My ice cream maker broke several months back. Now, there is no use whatsoever for a broken ice cream maker. BUT. This one had a story.
When I was in second grade or so, I went out East with my mother to visit my grandparents in Connecticut. While we were out there, my Mom and Harriet (my grandmother) and I took a trip to Boston to visit some museums. (My mom was a museum curator for most of her career; I think it was a work-related trip.) I know we went to the museum at Harvard that has all the glass flowers, along with a bunch of gems and minerals. I remember a gigantic selenite cluster in particular.
Anyway, while we were walking around Cambridge, I walked off a loading dock. It wasn't an accident, it was one of those things that little kids will do. Whee, gravity! I noticed a little bit of a stinging on the backs of my legs (I was wearing shorts) afterwards, but didn't think much of it.
Until my grandmother said "Ooo, that looks like it hurts."
And I looked.
There are moments when you really, really wish that you could rewind time and take back the last five seconds. Because it didn't actually hurt until I looked back and realized that I had basically scraped all the skin off the backs of my thighs. At which point it began to hurt. A LOT.
But we were on foot, in Cambridge, and it wasn't bleeding or anything, and my Mom needed to do the stuff we were there to do, so I put up with it and spent time standing in front of fans and stuff like that.
And for being very brave, I got an ice cream maker as a reward.
So, when this Terribly Meaningful Object finally broke, it took me some time to divest it of its stored chi and bring myself to throw it away.
I'm working on not being so damn sentimental, but it's hard.
Still, today I threw out the damn AOL tins!
Into the recycling bin.