What an amazing difference a DE makes! I've become a fan of LXDE from the moment I started experimenting with it. It's even more lightweight than Xfce, the next fastest thing to having no DE at all. Yet it is beautiful and super-simple.
You can drag and drop applications and/or folders to the desktop from the file manager, or just use the menus. Wallpapers are easily changed (the default blue is pretty, but you can add them from any site and add them to usr/share/lxde/wallpapers).
LXDE flies along really fast and effortlessly on older hardware, too. And for looks, though they aren't related, I would say that LXDE could pass as KDE's pretty "little sister."
They're actually working on an official *buntu built on the LXDE environment. Look for "Lubuntu" in the next year or two.