I have a small altar, mine is nothing more than a cheap flip top chest.. I put items such as tarot, my ritual tools, and herbs inside.. I realized that my altar picture was gone so let me post it again.. I lay a cloth over the top to protect and hide the fact there is storage lol, and lay my items down on it.. I keep my candles on it at ALL times, but other things I put away and/or move through out my house.. I don't currently have any statues or anything, I am an earth sign by birth but a water sign by connection so my altar contains a sea theme.. I made the connection by water = emotion, water = cleansing, water = purity and all those things to me means spiritual harmony
Since I have taken this picture, I have started a book of tarot/shadows which remains on my altar.. I also have some sea life figurines i move about.. I DO believe ones altar needs to be HIGHLY personalized and invoke a feeling of tranquility no matter what you put on there.. whatever represents harmony, healing, and spirit to YOU is what you should put on there I hope I have helped but I think you get my meaning
My port-a-witch is an old upright stereo cabinet with a glass door front and the glass top that opened so you could put a record on the turntable (What's a record, mommy?) It had some shelves for the stereo equipment, but I was fortunate to find a storage solution of six cardboard box/trays that they sometimes sell to store children's school memories? They are about 12"x14" x 2" and have a flip top? The trays fit inside a carboard sleeve and it fit perfectly into the cabinet. I have a tray for each color -and put everything that corresponds into it - altar cloth, candles, whatnots - so that I can access them easily. In another tray is the bookstand, spellbook, deck for spellwork. Ritual items also have their spot.
The only thing that didn't fit was the large supply of incenses! I needed a small picnic basket for them! The picnic basket makes it easy to carry stuff to outdoors rituals.
So in my Order we sort of "go big" on the altars. We try to fill the space with as much imagery as we can thatcorresponds to what we are working with. Of course we're a group so we can do that.
My Coven did a series of four elemental altars for our last set of apprentices so the first four show what we cme up with for those. Then the three covens in my order came together to do a joined ritual for the blue moon and I'm including our attar (dedicated to Lilith) here.
I love reading about everyones alters. It's given me a bigger push to do something about my bedroom cabinet. I've been thinking for a while about a small area just with some candles and maybe some natural things, flowers, crystals that sort of thing as a focus point for meditation. At the moment there is just too much clutter on there and it's not restful so I need to do something about it.
Here's the trick with altars. When you first start out the tendency is to put everything "spiritual" you own on the altar. It generally is pretty cluttered with crystals candles, plants, statuary and figurines etc all thrown together. But once you get going you will accumulate enough things that it just cannot all go on the altar. Here are a couple of guidelines.
Balance: Generally speaking all of the objects should look like they go together. Take a look at September Pixie's altar, it has a definite sense of balance among the objects: lots of glass, bright, clear colors, demure objects... here's a flow. If you have an altar cloth with a bright cat-print pattern, a reproduction of an ancient Minoan snake goddess statue, an artsy modern glass chalice from pottery barn, a plastic incense burner with skulls all over it, and big brass Tibetan bell... it's gonna be a big clutter. They don't have to look like a perfectly matched set; an ancient looking statue will be ok next to a fairly natural looking incense burner.
Active: I tend to like it when some part of the altar says ok I am in use right now. This is easily accomplished with candles, incense or fountains and other objects with a sense of movement. Some people have a piece of jewelry that stays on the altar that they wear when they are present in sacred space.
Nothing mundane on the altar! In order or the space to remain special, never put mail or soda cans or anything else on that altar... not even just for a "little while."
Composition: There should be a sense of layout, even if it is a very casual one. Altars tend to have a central focal point (generally a statue) with objects placed around it in a certain way. Some people (mostly pagans) group objects by elemental association or by gender. Astrologically could work as well.
Change: Obviously if you are doing a spell or ritual the altar setup will reflect that but even general use altars would in some way reflect what is going on in your life right now. If you were working on inner strength or confidence a lion on the altar would be appropriate. If you are cultivating stronger relationships objects grouped in twos are good. Natural objects found that relate to the change of seasons in your area help to keep the altar current.