Elizabeth and Lewis Parsons have no trouble letting go.

They're ditching kitchenware, knickknacks and endless stacks of paperwork from the two homes they owned when they married in August.

"My idea was to knock a hole in the eave and shove it all into a Dumpster," said Elizabeth Parsons, 80.

She laughs at the idea of old business records, Christmas decorations, discarded clothes and unwanted household items flying out the side of the attic where it's all been stashed for 48 years.

The nearby house where Lewis, 82, has lived since 1956 is just as bad, they say. He has even been called a "pack rat." Both had spouses who died several years ago.

"My children got a lot of things like silver and dishware," he said.

Neither Elizabeth nor Lewis want to take care of a big house or yard anymore, so they moved into a 940-square-foot apartment at the Arbors, a retirement community in Newport News, Va.

They decided to start fresh, with mostly new stuff that would be better scaled to the smaller size of their new living quarters. Getting rid of what they owned posed a big problem.

The couple hired local design consultant Teri Zodda of Roomscapes by tz to help them decide what to take and what to leave behind. Zodda also selected new furniture for the apartment.

In the end, the Parsons took four of Elizabeth's nicest mirrors, two white wingback chairs and some bedroom furniture. They also kept a few personal items such as the miniature cars Lewis collects and an English tea set Elizabeth cherishes.

"It was in Teri's hands, and we didn't see the apartment until she was done," Elizabeth said.

"We're totally pleased," Lewis added.

In addition to helping make decisions on possessions, Zodda preps each home to get it ready for sale. She also brings in a professional company to handle the estate sale.

A former real estate agent, Zodda started her business in 1997 to help homeowners ready their property for sale. It's a process called "staging" -- placing furniture, establishing the right lighting and getting rid of personal effects in a for-sale home so would-be buyers can imagine themselves living there.

Now she also helps homeowners go through what she calls the "purging process," getting themselves organized, downsized and liberated from clutter and unnecessary belongings.

"People keep clutter around them for several personal reasons," said Zodda. "Maybe they grew up with very little and now since they can afford items, they keep buying without replacing them.

"But too many things are stressful. I try to guide them to let go and let someone else 'in need' enjoy it. Change the way you think about things and purging can begin."

Home organizer Laurie Gardner agrees people must change the way they feel about clutter before they can take on a simpler life.

"It's behavior modification," she said.

Gardner specializes in paper management, helping people set up filing systems that are efficient to use and easy for surviving families to follow when deaths occur. Her fees are $50 for a consultation, then $30 an hour for organizational work.

She started her services three years ago after leaving a 20-year career in the financial world where she went through numerous corporate buyouts.

"You are either organized or you don't make it," she said of the financial field.

She also downsized her personal life, setting up house in a 1,000-square-foot residence.

"The more things we have, the more time we expend on taking care of those things.

"My philosophy is: If I don't love it or I don't use it, I don't have it."

Elizabeth and Lewis Parsons sold both their homes, and divested themselves of many of their belongings when they married. They kept some cherished items, such as Elizabeth's English tea set, and Lewis's miniature car collection, when they moved into their new apartment in Newport News, Va. Elizabeth Parsons, left, talks with consultant Teri Zodda of Roomscapes by tz. Zodda helped the Parsonses with both downsizing and design planning. Elizabeth and Lewis Parsons married in August and are selling many of their possessions and both their homes to move into a 940-square-foot apartment.