Scene: On Saturday I went to the mall and I was overwhelmed.

Never a mall rat, I grew up in New Jersey in the radius of four sizable shopping malls and any number of bookstores, toy/hobby stores, tackle shops, garden centers, and bakeries.  I know how to shop.

When I moved to Boston for college, my habits changed.  They had to, the only indoor malls I knew were the Copley and the Prudential, and Copley was far too pricey for my college non-income.  I started scouring sales in Downtown Crossing –an outdoor, cobblestone-lined district known for deep discounts at Filene’s Basement, for jewelry and diamond dealers, and, among my crowd of college-age women, for the sketchiness of male loiterers.

From Downtown Crossing I transferred my consumer dollars to the discount giants on Boylston Street and infrequent cheap-finds on Newbury Street; from Newbury to the thrift stores of Allston; from Allston to the independent gems in Jamaica Plain.  The most significant change to my habits however wasn’t where I shopped but whether I shopped.

Enter, stage left: the clothing swap.  Exit, stage right: browsing the retail offerings after work and on weekends, “Black Friday,” television ads, advertisements posing as magazines, blockbuster movies, and newspaper circulars.  Stage rear: a single spotlight illuminates the Ikea catalog, which has essentially become a fantasy novel in my house.

Scene: My partner and I drive into the many-story parking garage of Legacy Place in Dedham, MA.  Most of the spaces are taken, so we circle to the second level and I gaze out over the stores below, the cars below, the people below –the plastic, the paper, the hidden sewer and HVAC systems, the landscaping, the water flowing up into the many fixtures.  Even though Legacy Place appeals to me because of its mix of mainstream and local chain favorites, I feel overwhelmed by the all-encompassing everything.

It’s just . . . so much stuff.