Found a minimalist, user choice oriented Linix version for me: WattOS (long-term support Ubuntu-based, LXDE desktop).

- Minimum preinstalled programs,
- everything else can be installed form Software centre,
- has Start Menu button and bottom panel,
- 2 desktop workspaces at the bottom panel can be easily reduced to 1,
- when saving files (from programs) it doesn't remember where the last file was saved, I was told the this depends on some library that these programs use. Work around: use Recent place when saving
- instead if Control Panel (Settings) it uses one step less: each part of Control Panel can be opened directly from Menu > Preferences.

Unexpected bonus features:
- installing manufacturer's driver for Brother printer went flawless, fine nuances of printing are now possible (same driver was not accepted by Mint 16 Cinnamon, 64 bit).
- Looks much better than Lubuntu.

Drawbacks, LXDE specific:
- More hand-work from terminal, described on the web ( and on main Ubuntu website), few lines actually, to install Oracle Java (not Open Java, if you need it for cross-platform software).
- Making Desktop links for files or folders has to be done in text editor (take copy of existing file and change name and path), how-to described here:
- Disks utility has to be installed separately, or get used to mount/unmount media in File Manager (orange arrow near mounted volume name in Places view).
- Moving files and folders in File Manager is easier to cut-paste, drag-and-drop sometimes copies files instead of moving them. If File Manager opens as not 2 separate instances, but as tabbed interface, cut-paste works.
- Emptying trash is done also from File manager, Places view.
- Desktop icons has no options to be dragged anywhere you want them to be grouped in clusters of choice, but you can move them within area where they are.
- Applications icons from start menu can't be added to Quick launch bar, only limited scope of widgets (on right click).

Things to know before install: read top of home page of their website, do not upgrade to Ubuntu 13.10.
I did not, it works anyway, even propietary driver for a printer installs, only shutdown was disabled. Each time one has to go to Terminal and enter: sudo poweroff. The unexpected bonus was that you can add application icons to Quick launch bar now.

I understand now what windows managers like Fluxbox are, AntiX Linux has variety of the to try, in different combinations with 3 built-in file managers. AntiX was expected to be minimalist, user choice version of Linux too, but in my experience there are too much preinstalled not needed programs and user choice to manage OS easily was more reduced than in LXDE. If not references from other users to WattOS and AntiX, I wouldn't even think to try them, there are too many versions of Linux.

As all you you said, try until you find what you want.
By the way, in process of finding better Linux for me, bought tablet with Windows 8.1. it appears that WattOS or Mint are much easier to learn and work with from scratch (for Windows 7 user) than re-learn how to use Windows 8.

Thanks again!