One of Maxwell Ryan's ideas, and well worth thinking about, especially if you're a busy working single person.

You can just spend time with someone, but then, you can also have a date with them. Even if you're Platonic friends, married, or strangers, there's ordinary time, when you work or do chores, and then, there's date time, when you're both "on", showing your best selves, and getting to have fun with each other without having to think about (much) else.

The same is true of your home, whether house or flat.

It's surprising how many people don't really live in the places where they live. They might sleep there, sure, but they graze or eat microwaved food or takeout in front of the TV or the computer screen in the basement, not home-cooked meals at that lovely kitchen or dining table they've arranged with that dusty centerpiece. The living room might have a sofa, armchairs, and books, but they never sit and read there, the deck, with its grill, might cook a few hamburgers now and then, but they don't eat them on that lovely patio set. If they have a guest room, it never sees a guest, save in an emergency, if they have a yard, the lawn is cut, but never walked on, and so on. It's always the same old routine: out at eight, in at six, errands and chores on weekends. If sickness or happenstance keeps them indoors without special reasons for more than a few hours, they complain of cabin fever. People who don't live in their homes operate in a misty haze, in spaces laid out for someone else.

Having a date with your home is to get to know it.

On a home date, you take a neighborhood walk (ideally going to the corner store on the way), make yourself a nice dinner (he helpfully gives you baked chicken instructions), and put yourself to bed early. No TV, no Internet (unless to play some soothing music) chores either (save to wash up after dinner). Just relax...the emails will still be there in the morning, you TIVO'd that show...or it will be on YouTube. Meanwhile, explore in a friendly way, lovingly. What is it really like to sit and read on that chair? Set out your best china and silverware...put flowers on the table. If you have a deck, eat outdoors, have a bath in that bathtub you use for those hurried morning showers. In short, be that guest you always wanted to have come over.

If you aren't comfortable in the space you lay out for others, who do you think is going to occupy it? If you aren't getting the maximum potential out of what space you have, if things are laid out to satisfy your ex or your parents or some vague ideas of success, or adulthood, or anyone but yourself, then you're setting yourself up for a nondating life that isn't going to be all that satisfying, either. Is this your home, in a word, or someone else's?

OK, I hear the peanut gallery japing, this is all right if you own a house and live alone, or a flat in New York City, where you can pick up dinner fixings at the corner store. I can attest that this works just as well with an apartment in the Middle of Nowhere...I have no experience doing this with roommates, but I'm sure that you can either get them out of the house or agree to do this together, if you frame it nicely. You might not have a dining room you aren't using (and could better be put to use for gaming or a home office), but it doesn't take much room to have dead spaces, useless knicknacks, or to have made some really off-putting mistakes you never got around to fixing. Whether you think of this exercise as pampering or a reality check, it's still worth trying.

I also like the way this craftily gets around a peculiarly American problem: Americans' love/hate relationship with cooking that cuts across all socio-economic levels and several generations. I can remember my grandmother's kitchen (c. 1938) having lovely wallpaper with the words "Marrons Glace/Petit Fours/Bon-Bons/Piccalilli" against a background of apothecary jars, and a rack of Wagner's Spices above an enormous stove with two ovens and a deep-well cooker (the Forties version of a Crock Pot).  Although the stove got heavy use (it was big enough to be used as extra counter space), we never seemed to use the spices, and I never got to eat any of the goodies (except maybe Bon-Bons) on the wallpaper until I was quite grown.

Anyway, nowadays you can see the same instincts in people who install kitchen islands ("oh, I just love being able to work while entertaining.The kitchen is the heart of my home." Fat chance. Kitchen islands mean you can run dinner through the microwave, eat, and slide your plate into the sink without getting up.) and in people who make fake-food fridge magnets with cooking smells for down-market kitchens ("Cherry pie smells...just like Great-Grandma's!") and in (again) people who have oil and vinegar infusing eternally in sealed, Mediterranean-primitive-looking bottles, but never get around to using them.

Really hard-working kitchens don't need any 'decorating', because the spice rack is right next to the counter (instead of over the burners), the oil and vinegar are on the salad, the cherry pie is in the oven (or on the cake stand, under a dome) and eating is done someplace where people can relax, mingle, and enjoy their food instead of being perched next to the appliances.

As with everything, sometimes it's just easier to bake that chicken, and be done with it. And you get great leftovers.

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