Someone once said "I've never met a cliche I didn't like." Not sure who but that's a true statement. I've found cliches useful when writing and also when doing crossword puzzles. The real problem with using them when I write is finding all and getting rid of them. There are more than those nice little phrases such as white as snow, or blue as the sky. Cliches come in other flavors. There are cliche characters, effects, scenes and plots.
Some writers have made great use of cliche characters. I know I have. The grouchy nurse, the kindly doctor, the tough detective. Perhaps if these characters are just background people they can remain as cliches. If they have a purpose in the story they need to have a bit of individuality and personality.
Effects are a character's reaction to an event or a situation. Take the character's reaction during a lovemaking scene. Like fireworks. Soaring to reach the sky. We've all used them. What about battle scenes. Gut clenched. Try using a surprise when a character reacts.
Scenes can become cliched. The first meeting of the hero and the heroine often rings with the same words or the same actions. Find a way to change this. Instead of having the meeting be a comedy or a tragedy look for a way to show the expectations skewed. Can be a lot of fun devising ways to show the discovery of a body in a mystery or the plague in a space opera or the magical events in a fantasy.
There really are cliched plots. Pick up a book and begin reading. All of a sudden it hits you that you've read this story before. While there are only so many plots and so many ways to reach the end what the writer has to do is put a personal spin on a story. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl. We've read this story a million times but some writers find ways to make this seem fresh rather than cliched.
Finding ways to turn cliches from stale to fresh is the trick. When writing, remember the time, the setting and the genre and find that twist to make your story leave the road paved with cliches.