Today, on my way from one errand to another, I decided to take a different route. (This is common for me.) Well into this exploratory drive, I realized I was going to go more or less right past one of my favorite fabric stores in Portland: Mill End Store, which announces itself as having the largest display of fabrics in America. (I’ve been there. I believe them. How did I get so lucky as to end up in this city??) So, natch, I decided to pop in.
Now, since I hadn’t planned a fabric-shopping foray, not to mention that I had just been in this shop a little over a week ago (and I had purchased plenty of impulse items then, thank you very much), I had no shopping list, no plan, no agenda. Dangerous stuff for a fabric lover. The only decision I made before entering was that I would act as if I was there for the very first time, and simply browse. (This is something I usually avoid like the proverbial plague, since it frequently leads to the aforementioned impulse purchases.)
As soon as I walked in, I could feel a difference. With no self-imposed restrictions (like a list), it was as if the whole world was open to my choice (well, the world of fabric, anyway). A revelation. As I wandered around, I gradually realized how many things I was noticing for the first time, despite having been in this store several times, and recently too. How had I missed the three (!) solid rows just of lingerie fabrics? Then there were the silk linens, wool jerseys (is it jerseys or jersies?), even a whole row just of swimsuit lining fabrics. And what other fabric store has an area dedicated to mohairs?
I got to thinking about this. Why was I suddenly seeing all this deliciousness for the first time? Was it because, on previous trips, I always had a plan, a list, an agenda? Yes, it’s more efficient, and for me, definitely safer for budgetary reasons, but if I only went to the fabric shop under those conditions, I would never have seen that Anna Sui printed silk chiffon that would be perfect for a Donna Karan dress pattern…
My point: I think the idea of shopping without a list could be applied to almost any other shopping task, whether it’s for clothes, gifts, or even groceries. Just once in a while, could you go into a store without planning to buy anything (leave your lists at home!), and see what catches your eye? It’s amazing what you become aware of when you’re not immediately rejecting most of what you see, just because it’s not a shopping priority that particular day.
I’m intrigued by the idea of trying this in a grocery store; since I love to cook, could there be any better way to get inspired to try something new? I know, I know, we’re constantly being told to shop with a list, but would it really occur to most of us to put harissa or dandelion greens on our list? (I actually did have those ingredients on my list the other day, but that’s because I was trying a new recipe. I didn’t even know what harissa was— it’s a traditional North African/Middle Eastern sauce or spread made with peppers and chiles, since you asked. I was making Moroccan Chicken.)
What’s important here is inspiration. If we’re not being inspired, we’re most likely doing the same old, same old. Let’s push ourselves at least enough to try the same shopping tasks with a different approach. I’ll make a deal with you: you promise to make at least one shopping trip with no list every month or so, and tell me what you discover. And I promise to always back you up when you say that you ended up in that fabric store accidentally.