August 19, 2011

Living Without Money

H. Schwermer with her worldly possessions
Money, it used to be said, makes the world go round. Now it creates chaos and havoc, poverty and riots. Not that there is a shortage of the stuff - there is an abundance like never before. It's just that a tiny group of people possess the majority of it, while the rest scrounge for coins that fall through the grate. But what if you could live without money?

That is exactly what Heidemarie Schwermer did for 13 years. She is an ex-teacher living in Germany, and after a 'conversion moment', her life changed. Unleashed inside her was a strong desire to live a more simple life with fewer possessions and a more authentic, cooperative existence. To do so she needed to remove the obstruction of money.

Eventually she worked hard enough to get off of money all together.

Part of Schwermer's plan was a Tauschring, or barter community. She called it Give and Take, and it became a thriving money-free zone. Members exchange goods and services. Haircuts are traded for electrical work. Unused stuff is traded for things that are needed. The horrors of big finance are nowhere to be seen, and the economically disenfranchised are empowered while building and sharing skills.

In a money-obsessed world, living without money seems like an outrageous idea. And yet, some are doing it. Sickened by the greed and mayhem in the glass monoliths of the word's financial centers, some barter members are disconnecting entirely from the mainstream economy.

For Schwermer quitting teaching, stuff, and money has been liberating. She is contributing to her community and feels more free than ever. She illustrates her unfettered life by displaying her entire set of possessions - everything fits into a suitcase and a duffel bag. 

No money. No stuff. No problem.

"The point is that my living without money is to allow for the possibility of another kind of society. I want people to ask themselves, ‘What do I need? How do I really want to live?’ Every person needs to ask themselves who they really are and where they belong." 
- Heidemarie Schwermer

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