Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Landlord Sins - Gluttony

Landlording is an ancient profession which has survived almost untouched into modernity. Its antiquity positions it uniquely well to benefit from classical advice on moderation.

Many of the hardships of being a landlord are self-inflicted. When I've kicked my own goals, it's often been because I was tempted by one of the seven deadly sins. This series of posts will examine those sins, and their remedies, to moderate the ups and downs of being a landlord.

Gluttony - Too much landlording is bad for you


It's the dead of night. I get an email from the agent. It's a problem, nothing urgent. Yet, I draft and re-draft a reply. I call them to try and work through it, and get agitated when I hit voice mail. I'm getting worked up. I can't sleep. What if it was something I did? What will be the impact?

That's not me being diligent. That's me indulging.

Not in food, but in landlording; another activity that, while in moderation provides sustenance, In excess is simply imprudent.

Gluttony is defined broadly as over-consumption to the point of waste, and there's certainly a lot of waste created by being too hands-on.

In my case, waste often takes the form of energy spent worrying myself to fatigue. Despite this apparent devotion to my role, the prognosis is not good. Proverbs 23:20: "For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags."

Gluttonous forms

Aquinas in Summa Theologica breaks down gluttony into five types. These I equate to trying to do too much, too specifically, too quickly.
  • Cleaning out the entire shed in one day (too much): Guilty!
  • Spending ten minutes trying to clear up a drop of paint outside (too fussy): Guilty!
  • Not waiting for tenants to troubleshoot the internet, and personally attending (too hasty): Guilty!
Going out on a limb, gluttony for work pervades modern life where busy-ness is considered a virtuous means to identity (James 2:18), and man's destiny to toil (Genesis 3:17) is seen as a moral commandment rather than a curse.

Reaching even further, I feel that an insatiability for quick wins can - particularly if frustrated - overflow into conventional gluttony for food. Personally, I feel a resonance between my weight problems and being encouraged from my youth to keep myself busy.

Remedies for over-consumption

The treatment and inverse of gluttony is temperance, or self-regulation.

Humility is also touted as a remedy. However, St Paul ("Whether you eat or drink ... do all to the glory of God" 1 Cor. 10:31) can confuse the issue, as it is much easier to mistakenly associate stewarding a rental property with a higher cause, than it is to similarly exalt eating. (That said, plenty of Instagram #foodies and hipster epicureans are challenging this.)

A practical application of temperance for the chronically always-on landlord can be summed up as 'setting strong boundaries'.
  • The Saints practiced periods of abstinence. We can declare 'off times'. (Much, much easier said than done.)
  • We can set limits on when, how, and the amount of time we spend on issues that arise.
  • We can limit planning, projecting, or other forms of extra work, recognising that pre-emptive work or worry will not always save future effort, just as eating in advance makes no sense.
  • Just as there will almost always be more food than we can eat, there will be more work than we can do.
  • Downing tools is just as righteous as picking them up.

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