Have your desktop free from icons, folders, and clutter.
Unclutter your Desktop
When you start working on a task move the items related to your work on the desktop. Have only what you're actively working on right now. Nothing more.
I try to follow my mantra, but I still fail at times. I put a folder and then since I use it every once in a while I just leave it there without removing it (the folder never actually resides in the desktop, it's just a shortcut).
But for single files, there are no exceptions. If I'm not going to use that file during the day it gets filled into some folder where it belongs.
Too Much Minimalism
I've seen many people that just have nothing on the Desktop at all, but I found that too be too much. One thing is being minimal, one thing is too much minimalism. Minimalism shouldn't come at the expense of accessibility and ease of use.
With spotlight (Alfred or LaunchBar), you can pretty much CMD+Space to every file in the filesystem, but it's still not as quick as opening the shortcut from the desktop.
If you prefer to cheat instead check out Free My Desktop (jokes aside, please don't use it for that purpose).