A new gutter installation done properly should last decades.Quality gutters generally last as long as the roof. But there is a caveat: you have to clean them on a regular basis. If you allow your gutters to accumulate debris, you run the risk of reducing their life. So yes, clean your gutters.Just do it safely.
Gutter cleaning is not necessarily a hard job. It also doesn't have to take a ton of time if you do it on a regular schedule. How frequently gutters need to be cleaned depends on the environment around your house. If you live in a windy area and your home is surrounded by trees, you may have to do the job twice per year. Otherwise, an annual cleaning might suffice.
At any rate, the best advice we can offer is that you think things through before you begin the job. Account for every safety concern you can think of. Take advantage of protective clothing and, if you can, enlist someone else to help you. Two people can usually do the job more safely than one.
Although it's sometimes possible to clean gutters from the ground, most of us end up using a ladder. We need to climb in order to see what we are dealing with. We need to get up to the actual gutter to scoop out debris.
With all that said, be sure to use a sturdy ladder. Do not use an old, rickety ladder you inherited from your grandfather. Also, make sure the latter is firmly planted on solid, level ground. You might even pound stakes into the ground to brace it.
As long as we are talking ladders, be sure to not climb too high. If your center of gravity gets higher than the bottom of the roof line,you run the risk of the ladder pulling out from underneath you. You also increase the chances of the ladder sliding from side to side. Note that your ladder should have a label pointing out how far you can safely climb. Pay attention to it.
Make a point of starting near the downspouts. In fact,clearing the downspouts first is a good idea. Starting near the downspouts and working back should reduce the amount of effort you have to put into cleaning.You can scoop out large piles of debris and then use a garden hose to rinse away the rest. The more you can rinse away, the less scooping you'll have todo. This makes for a safer experience.
Scooping debris with your hands exposes them to debris that could cut or puncture. It goes without saying that you should wear a good pair of gloves. Those same gloves will protect your hands against mold, mildew, and any other nasties that could irritate your skin.
Likewise, wear protective eyewear. The last thing you need is for the wind to pick up debris and deposit it in your eyes. Wearing protective eyewear will also stop you from inadvertently rubbing your eyes without thinking about it.
As with any DIY project, do yourself a favor and think safety first. Cleaning your gutters doesn't have to be a complicated or unsafe job. But it can be if you rush into it without thinking things through.
One final note: some people use their annual gutter cleaning as an opportunity to install rain gutter coverings. If you are considering gutter coverings, make sure you get a product appropriate to the size and style of your gutters.