I run MATE, but to paraphrase a restaurant - "I want Debian MyWay" ;)
It was suggested that I wanted what KDE calls "activities".
It looked promising. I installed it. It suffers from featuritis.
fvwm-crystal was also suggested. When installed it was in some sense
"cleaner" but still too busy. Launched fvwm which had been installed by
the fvwm-crystal package.
It had "inherited" configuration items from fvwm-crystal. The web pages
I had read spoke of a default 1st run display. I could not figure out
how to get that to appear.
Having adequate space available I used netinst to do a base command line
only install to a new partition. It was followed by doing "apt-get
I rebooted expecting a minimal fvwm display. I got a command line.
I found that though a "/home/richard/.fvwm" directory had been created,
it was empty. I couldn't find copies of what files should have been
there on initial first run. Only instructions/examples for adding this
or that doodad.