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Self-improvement includes everything from clearing clutter out of lives to cleaning clutter from closets, Education Week attendees were told Tuesday.

"Stress can be good when it causes us to grow," said Vivian R. Cline, owner and instructor of The Finishing Touch. Cline is a lecturer this week for Education Week, offered by the Church Educational System of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Brigham Young University."Stress helps us expand beyond our comfort zone," she said, and that type of stress is good. Stress is bad when people attempt to grow in too many areas at once.

To achieve a less stressful lifestyle, people should follow five basic steps, she said.

First, an optimistic attitude will make a big difference in whether situations are stressful.

Getting back to basics will also reduce stress. "We get so caught up with things that we forget the basics," she said.

The third step is removing unnecessary distractions. "We need to unclutter our lives," Cline said. Then we should prioritize the remaining items.

The last but most important step is turning to God for help, she said. He can make things bearable when nothing else works.

There are also ways to reduce the stress of keeping an orderly house, said Linda Dastrup, director of marketing and product development for Creative Changes Inc.

Dastrup outlined a four-step policy she calls STEP.

"Think of one area in your home you want to make a difference in," she said. Then start to work with STEP.

The first step is to store things. She suggested putting things in apple boxes with an index card detailing the box's contents.

"Put them (the boxes) where they're convenient, but put them out of the way."

Next, throw all the junk away. "Even if you take it to a neighbor's, get rid of it," Dastrup said.

Then, eliminate seldom-used items. "These are things which are still usable, we just don't have a use for them anymore," she said. Those items may be stored for emergencies or camping supplies, but they need not be stored in a high-traffic area.

Once all that is done, "put things away," she said. Dastrup then gave suggestions for putting things away, such as organizing drawers by keeping particular items in show boxes, color coding hangers or keeping children's belongings in transparent plastic bags.

Once organized, stay that way. It's much easier to keep things orderly than to let them deteriorate and then have to clean up again, she said.

Education Week continues through Friday.