Get a third-party Start menu replacement
No mention of Windows 8.1’s shortcomings (or Windows 8’s, for that matter) would be complete without a resounding endorsement of the many good, solid third-party Start menu replacement programs currently available.
My personal bias: Start8, by Stardock. It puts a full-featured, better-than-Windows-7 Start menu on your Windows 8.1 old-fashioned desktop, and it adds easy hooks into those Metro apps that you’ll probably never use or want. Bring your sanity back for $5.
While you’re on the site, make sure you also look at ModernMix, which lets you run Metro apps on the old-fashioned desktop. Very cool stuff.