I have done this on the very same model laptop.
I used this very guide:
https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Insta ... orySystems
I installed a commmand line system , Added X & Tried a few DE's settled on fluxbox but any will work , added only the dependencies & programs I needed ONLY for that specific application , Keep the dependencies DE specific , for instance if you choose XFCE , do not install Amarok and all it's baggage.
If I'm not mistaken this is essentially what the old schoolers had to do back in the day and is why *unix got the die hard nerd stigma folks not in the know still label it with , honestly I went into that first setup without knowing what to expect with that guide and it was sooooo easy , I was amazed.
btw , with Fluxbox you can install debian support and actually use apt-get.