Here's Todd's trick in his own words:
Something that I had always struggled with was the Recycle Bin: it's not particularly 'minimal' in Windows 7. But I had a stroke of genius tonight. Changing the icon for 'Recycle Bin (empty)' to a completely transparent icon, and renaming the desktop Recycle Bin icon with the 'invisible character' (ALT+255), I could have the Recycle Bin included on my minimal desktop; it would display *nothing* when it was empty, and *just* the icon when it had something in it.
To change the icon for the empty Recycle Bin, you need to access the Personalization option in Control Panel (searching for Personalization in the Start menu will find it pretty quickly) and click on Change desktop icons. Renaming the Recycle Bin is pretty straightforward: just right-click on it from the desktop, choose Rename and enter the Alt-255 character using your numeric keypad.
There are other tricks for putting the Recycle Bin elsewhere, such as placing it on the Start menu, but this is a clever tactic for having it almost invisible but still functional. Thanks Todd!