while I agree that the new start menu is a monstrosity, it can be turned to a classic view.
I also run Windows7 (on three machines) and the very first thing I do is actually change the control panel view to "Large Icons", I knew when I first saw windows 7 that they were going to continue to "cartoonize" pages and menues, but as they retained a means to display stuff the "old way" it really wasn't an issue
I'm probably operating differently from you, and my desktop (on my 24" HD screen) is hardly "cluttered" nor is my taskbar full.
But then again for things that WOULD clutter my screen (the seperate icons for M$ Office) are all under a desktop Icon that opens a menu to the various office functions.
But then again I have three desktop computers that are exclusively "mine" and none of them are particularly cluttered, because I don't need each computer to DO "everything". Notebooks are another discussion all together.
I frankly don't like doing security sensitive things on a computer that isn't (literally) chained down.