I don’t keep a lot of things on my desktop, but I do litter my dock with folders. Prior to the release of Launchpad, I always had quick access to all of my apps—I just popped the Applications folder right into the dock (Stacks FTW!). I’ve also got my Downloads and Documents folders in there as well.
Saving things to the dock usually involves dragging and dropping an icon, or right-clicking an open application and selecting Keep in Dock. A tip I found over on OS X Daily gives you a much quicker way to do this. All you need to do is remember a simple keyboard shortcut: Command-Ctrl-Shift-T.
Highlight any item in the Finder, then do this simple combination and that item will be added to your dock. It will even work for multiple items, so you can go choose your most commonly used apps and put them all in the dock in one fell swoop. If you have to rebuild your Mac, this will come in handy.
Sadly, it doesn’t work to quick remove items from the dock—you’ll have to do that the old fashioned way. This tip obviously won’t help minimal dock users, but for most of you, this will be a time-saver.