The JavaRanch is a place to come to for answers when you want to talk with knowledgeable people who won't "flame" you if you say something "wrong". But it's not a good place to come for ASAP answers. We don't get paid, so we only come online when it's convenient for us. http://www.coderanch.com/how-to/java/PatienceIsAVirtue
Periodically people ask the same question you asked. We always answer "Don't do that!". While a lot of us are not entirely pleased with how Maven likes to arrange things, if you don't use Maven's standard project layout, you are discarding one of the primary advantages of Maven, which is that projects have a standard layout.
Also, and even more importantly, it takes a lot of work to force Maven to look in alternative places for the files it needs. That makes the POM structure bigger, more complex, and harder to understand and maintain. Adding complications is especially bad if you're a Maven beginner. It would be like trying to code Java based on how you were used to coding assembly language. You'll constantly run into problems and won't know why or how to fix them.
Customer surveys are for companies who didn't pay proper attention to begin with.
Why do you want to do item #2? That goes against Maven's automatic dependency handling, which is probably the primary reason for using Maven. I no longer have to gather JAR files into a lib directory to do anything. And even nicer - I no longer need to put them into source control. Instead, I tell Maven what I need (the IDEs have built-in search facilities to help you locate the JARs, or you can use search at Maven Central) and it does the rest.