I think this reclamation is what is considered a little risky.
What I've heard suggests that what you've heard here is probably correct.
I think that backing up everything is an excellent idea (if I did it more often I'd've had less problems). My setup has a / partition, a /home partition and a swap partition... I don't think that the others are really necessary. (The only reason that I have a seperate /home is to make reinstalling over my / directory easier should I ever decide to change distros... it was useful when I did).