I've spent hours organizing my music collection (using a fantastic tool called Tag&Rename) and I kinda get a kick out of photo organizing.
When I got my first computer, I quickly saw the merit of the 'Quick Launch' toolbar, a handy place to keep all the rubbish at bay. It was our cheap version of the cool icon-bar on Apple computer. However, as Windows got more evolved (I use that term cautiously), the Quick Launch bar went away and caused me immense distress. Until I discovered a workaround. It's pretty simple.
Step One: Right click the Taskbar, and deselect 'Lock The Taskbar'. Then drag it to increase its height.
Step Two: Create a folder - call it Toolbar (or anything else you fancy, really). Keep it anywhere. You won't be accessing it much.
Step Three: Right click the toolbar. Go to Toolbars -> New Toolbar. Navigate to select the 'Toolbar' folder you've just created. Voila! Your 'toolbar' is created there, and now you can drag and drop shortcuts and create your own Quick Launch.
Right click and deselect 'Show text' and 'Show title'.
Step Four: Drag and drop shortcuts of apps you commonly use onto this little toolbar.
And there you have it! All the commonly used programs are right down there. Making it easy for you to access them. If there are certain files that you access regularly as well (For eg: I have an Expenses file and a cycling log whose Excels are linked down there so I don't have to navigate every time I need to make an entry).
Oh, and a couple more things:
1. I hate having icons on the desktop. A clean desktop is more therapeutic than you think. It also forces you to keep new downloads / documents in folders they should be in rather than the most convenient location. It's easy to hide icons from the desktop. See?
2. If your computer is slow to start, it could be because there are lots of rubbish apps (Adobe Acrobat updater, anyone?) that feel compelled to start when the computer starts. Thankfully, you can disable all of them. Go to your start bar, and type in 'msconfig.exe'. Then go to 'Startup' and uncheck whatever you don't want at startup. Some tools might be useful, of course, like your antivirus, but in general, you can safely uncheck most of these.
There we go. Hope this helps :D