Have you ever looked at someone desktop and discovered that they seem to have icons for all the different documents that they are working on visible on their desktop. If you have the icons on your desktop they are probably causing you a lot of problems as well.
These icons do have an effect on your start up time for your computer and even the overall performance. The icons that are the worst are the icons that are a link to a specific folder because then the system has to read the entire folder each time it refreshes. If you need quick access to a specific folder you are better to have it as part of your start menu and not on your desktop. Actually once you have started opening a bunch of things on your computer you don't see your desktop anyway.
Having the different folders available as part of your start menu means that you can access them quickly even with other items opened and you don't have to minimize anything to do that.
Making sure that you have access you need is important but you also want to ensure that if you are complaining about the performance of your system that you aren't doing the things that are causing the issues. A slow computer isn't something anyone wants considering we are expected to do things faster now than we ever were.
For me, I have the applications that I use the most as part of my start menu and anything else that I need are in folders that I can easily find on my system, yes I have a very detailed file structure which means I can find the files quickly that I need. I am not talking about the users that have a few icons on their desktops I am talking about the users that have an entire screen full of icons and most of them are either files or folder icons. I am thinking that some people figure that the more icons they have on their desktop the move important they look. To me what they are communicating is I can't find the files that I work on because I don't have a good file structure.