My new best friend is Launchy, a program launcher. After installing, you type "Alt-Spacebar" and Launchy pops up.
You start typing the first letters of the app you want to start and it starts guessing which binaries in its path you want to start. Launchy learns quickly what you usually want. With Launchy you don't need all those icons on your desktop to launch programs. You can add directories to search and all the options you'd expect.
I've been able to clean my entire desktop of all those cluttering icons and reduce it down to just two icons, "My Computer" and "Recycle Bin".
Ahh.... the zen-like experience of having a clean desktop:
(Ok, it doesn't take much to make me happy.)