I think the main reason my dad kept so many things was his deep sense of values. He believed it wrong to discard things that were still useful. Reclaiming something that was even nominally functional was more virtuous than buying anything new. A child of the Great Depression and a World War II veteran, Daddy had lived through some very hard times. I have heard that people from his generation hold onto their possessions out of fear, a very real fear that they might once again find themselves in want. When this fear turns pathological, newspapers report that a little old lady from Cincinnati died of suffocation under a mountain of egg cartons or that paramedics couldn't find a stroke victim inside a ten-foot-high yellow maze of National Geographic magazines. A healthy fear of want, however, results in frugality. Daddy was frugal, but not miserly. Frugality, while it is a great virtue, was not his primary motivation to keep so much stuff.
Inside one of the sets of school lockers we found about twenty old metal Thermoses. A few had their insulated glass liners. Most had lids. Some still had cups. Marred by rust, chipped paint, and lime scale, they all had a bad case of ugly. He wasn't saving them for fear of never again being able to afford a locker full of Thermoses: He knew that he didn't need them, but with some elbow grease and a few new glass liners, they were still good. Neither was he saving them to save money: A new glass liner, if you can find one, is just about as expensive as an entire Thermos. He wasn't hoarding them out of a fear of want: He was saving them out of a sense of duty. If anything could, with even the remotest possibility, be reused, he was under moral obligation to save it. Like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on the Island of Misfit Toys, my dad found his worth in redeeming things that the rest of the world had cast aside.