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Messy altar? Four simple steps for organizing your witchy stuff

Michelle Gruben altars beginner tools

Messy altar? Clean it up with these tips

As Wiccans and Pagans, we tend to use a lot of objects in our spiritual practices. There's no shame in that--sacred objects help us understand the Above and to connect more deeply with the Below. But there are times when all the accumulated juju can get out of hand. It's a good idea to go through your stash at least a couple of times a year.

Are you a Pagan hoarder? Follow these easy steps to get your gear in tiptop shape! Traditionally, the best time to clear an altar is during the last waning moon before either Beltane or Samhain. 

Take inventory.

Your first mission, should you choose to accept it, is to round up all your magickal tools and supplies. Clear a tabletop, throw a sheet on the bed--whatever you need to do to get it all out in front of you. Take everything off your altar(s). Search through your cupboards, chests, closets and drawers. This is the point at which you're likely to find tools and supplies you didn't even remember you had. (And, if you're anything like us, you'll be shocked at just how many tarot decks you actually own!)

Sort it out.

This is the really fun part--doing triage on your witchy equipment. You get to decide which items are the most important to your practice going forward. If that's everything, fine--but chances are your altar box is carrying some dead weight. Basically, you're going to sort everything into three piles:

The first pile is the "A" team. It includes your consecrated ritual tools and anything else you use regularly. Your favorite crystal, patron deity statue, go-to incense, matches, and so on. It also includes your current altar setup--but do be mindful before just putting everything back where it was. Take a moment to consider each item and whether it deserves its spot in this elite group.

Naturally, there's also a "B" team. These are the items that have a place in your magick, but that you're not actively using. It includes backup supplies of candles and charcoal. That special oil you use once in a blue moon. Objects that appear on your altar only for certain seasons or occasions. And things that you don't use anymore at all, but are unwilling to part with for sentimental reasons.

The final pile is for--you guessed it, the losers. This section is for your spent spell ingredients, broken and expired items, tools you received that just didn't work for you. Try and find at least a few things to offer to this pile.

Some magickal stuff really does have a shelf life: Dried herbs gradually lose their potency, oils and ointments can go rancid. Other decisions are more subjective. If you're unsure, try holding the item in your hand and gently asking it if you have any more work do do together. When you keep promising yourself that you're going to use something (but never do), that's a sign that the connection just isn't there. Candle stubs, leaky oils, that incense you never really liked--dump this crap, or pass it along to someone who can use it.

Many people keep way too much witchy stuff around because they feel it's somehow irreverent or unlucky to toss it. If that's the hangup, check out our detailed article on disposing of magickal trash.

Freshen it up.

Okay, so now you should be looking at two piles of stuff (the third one has left the building) and a big empty space. Perfect! The next step in this shakedown is to clean (and/or cleanse) your altar or toolkit.

Yep, turn that box over and shake out the crumbs. Dust off the cobwebs. Throw your altar cloths in the wash. Round up the candle wax and ashes that have escaped as a result of your unruly magicks.

This is also a fine opportunity to freshen things up spiritually. Light up some Sage, ring a bell, move that besom--whatever hoodoo that you do to chase off stale energy. You can also use this time to shed some love on your chosen tools. Make necessary repairs. Anoint, charge, or re-consecrate them. Offer up a blessing for your re-dedicated space.

Put it back.

Now it's time to thoughtfully reset your altar. Your "A-team" tools have been polished up and ready for their place of honor at the center of your space. The second string supplies will go someplace out of the way, but still accessible. You now know exactly what you have and where to find it.

How you organize your stuff will have a lot to do with the space and equipment at your disposal. Personally, I recommend keeping only active tools out on the altar, and other items in an enclosed chest or box. (Smelly, scratchy, or leaky things get their own containers.) Sunlight, humidity, and dust are enemies of many magickal items. Besides, there are good metaphysical reasons for keeping your tools out of sight when not in use.

An altar is a microcosm of your personal magick--not something you want to be cluttered and stale. Getting organized is a small investment of time that's guaranteed to streamline your workings. May your altar be lean and mean (with a magickal gleam)!

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