With XP, you can boot to the cd instead of the operating system.
Once there, don't choose to repair the system with the recovery console, but to run Windows Setup.
When setup runs, eventually it will show a page where you need to change it from upgrade to "repair."
You also need to make sure the installation directory for Windows is the same one it was originally installed to. Most of the time this is "C:\Windows" and if has something different there you need to change it to wherever your current installation is. If it detects an existing Windows installation, it will probably want to install to a different folder (like C:\Windows001 or whatever). So, change that or you're installed programs will not be connected in the registry.
You'll still need to reinstall any service packs or Windows Updates, and perhaps any hardware drivers you were using that were unsigned by Microsoft or older versions than on your XP cd. But your programs should be "connected" and not need to be reinstalled when you run the "repair" install this way.
But, like noted previously you shouldn't need to do this very often with Windows XP. Even the Videocard driver updates often released by ATI, Nvidia, etc can be handled fine without a Windows repair if you follow good uninstall procedures and use drivercleaner, etc.
What messes up your system so much?