If you wish to keep your Desktop so "Minimal" in order to focus in productivity or something, keeping graphical items away from your desktop but preserving Desktop functionality thus saving resources which can be efficiently used for productivity, maybe what you need is a Lightweight Desktop Environment. Preferably a hybrid one.
They can be, anyway, too austere for a graphic desktop user, but pretty useful for focusing in productivity without losing the fancy things of Ubuntu.
I suggest you to try i3 Desktop Environment, this will not harm anything in your Ubuntu System but will add a new Desktop Environment which can be chosen from the list of available Desktop Environments at the login screen (a small circle beside your user name). To install type
sudo apt-get install i3 in a terminal, hit ENTER, provide your user password and wait for the install to finish, then log out in order to go to the Login screen and choose the proper i3 DE from the list.
IMPORTANT! Please read carefully the i3 User's Guide before attempting to start a session. Once in, you must know what to do. If you are in problems to return to a normal Desktop Environment or the Login Screen remember that you can always hit Ctrl+Alt+1 and go to the first virtual terminal in order to login and type
killall5 so your current i3 session will be closed and you'll be returned to the Login Screen.
You can improve your experience by reading enough in order to make certain software or services to auto-start or use docks or search elements like Synapse, graphic user interfaces will work without problems, you can view pictures, play movies, music, etc. and you can even split your monitor so that you can arrange your current programs as you wish. See the next screenshots:
I have heard of some other lightweight desktop environments, such as Enlightment, which is fancier than i3 indeed. But you can get used to i3 too quick because of its simplicity to show your work well arranged in the same screen. Multiple Virtual Desktops are allowed so that you can "jump" from a work area to the other with ease and this won't consume your computer's resources as a full graphic DE does.