One of the things I love about Stardock's icon-organizing Fences program is the way it can quickly hide all your desktop icons. Just double-click any empty area and poof: They're gone. A second double-click brings them back again.
Bet you didn't know you can accomplish the same thing in Windows Vista and 7 (I'm not sure about XP), no Fences required. Here's how:
1. Right-click any empty area of the desktop, then mouse over View.
2. Click Show Desktop Icons to remove the checkbox.
Presto! No more icons! Now you can enjoy that fancy Windows wallpaper without all the clutter. Don't worry, the icons aren't gone for good: To bring them back, just repeat the above steps.
Personally, I think hiding all your icons permanently is a great way to go. Just train yourself to run programs via the Start Menu, or, better yet, with a keyboard-based launcher like Launchy.