Self-care is the practice of sufficiently prioritizing what helps you feel well. As one option for self-care, altars are a great asset for tuning into your highest aspirations and values. With an altar in your home or work space, your highest aspirations and values gain a physical presence in the world. Plus, it just plain feels good to spend time at an altar of your own creation, honoring it.
Setting up an altar is a very personal endeavor, and should be. What you put on your altar is entirely up to you and need not make sense to anyone else. Your connection to the sacredness of your altar is the only thing that matters. Arrange it however you like. Follow your inspiration and intuition. Trust yourself that you will know as you sit at your altar what belongs there and doesn’t.
Also, keep things manageable in this practice. The smallest space in the world can be a magnificent altar if your intentions are behind it. You can put an altar in the window sill, on a shelf, across the space beneath or in front of a computer monitor. You can have multiple altars. You can have only one. You can make it elaborate if that’s what you want. You can share it or not.
Do you like candles? Do you like incense? Do you have a favorite scent for serenity and well-being? Any and all of these things can add atmosphere to your experience at your altar. How you behave there is completely up to you. Your altar is a place for perfectly natural expression of who you are and like to be. Maybe you want to sing, chant, read poems, sigh, pray, dialogue with ancestors, genuflect, dance.
The reason an altar serves as self-care is that it engages you at the level of what is sacred and meaningful to you. The flow of life often steamrolls those things, while an altar literally upholds them in your life. It gives you a place to pause and appreciate, not only regarding your hopes and heart, but also about yourself for constructing the altar in the first place, and wisely visiting it when you wish to.