Thank you gutmensch for bearing with me.
I am indeed unexperienced with kernel compiling, although I already did this a dozen times back in 2005 or so. I am however experienced with Linux, and I intend to learn more, so I have to get my hands dirty: there’s no better way to learn :-)
I am very confident that my kernel will end up being much smaller than the default, because I compile it for a specific old laptop in a specific network environment: no wifi, no bluetooth, no ipv6, no v4l, no i2c, no sata, only ext2/3+fat+nfs(client) for filesystems, and so on… I don’t expect to have a working kernel at first try, though.
I’m sure that what you told me already will help me get much further :-)