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Living Without Money – Can You Imagine a World Beyond Money?

May 18th 2011, 23:35, by Marta

Did you catch the Toronto premiere of “Living Without Money” last Thursday? The documentary tells the story of Heidemarie Schwermer, a German woman who has spent the last 14 years living without money, relying only on barter and the exchange of favours. 

What began as a year-long experiment has turned into a permanent lifestyle for the 69-year-old teacher, therapist and grandmother. First, she gave away all her possessions, including her apartment. Recalls Heidemarie, “After my apartment was emptied, I jumped around for joy.” Soon after, she got a call from a friend requesting her to housesit. Since then, unpaid house-sitting has kept a roof over her head while exchanging therapy sessions, educational talks and household help have helped her to get everything else she needs.

Heidemarie seeks to live a simpler life and believes that we should only take what we need and no more. For instance, instead of owing 20 pairs of shoes, she owns three and finds that more than enough.

When she speaks to groups of students throughout Germany, Heidemarie asks them to imagine a world without money, one where the emphasis is on giving and helping each other out. She’s often asked how she manages to survive, to which she replies, “I live completely normally, only without money.” Heidemarie has made swap arrangements a regular part of her life. She’s traded therapy sessions with an optician for glasses and even organized her funeral, in the event of her death, by bartering counselling sessions for the bereaved with an enlightened clergyman. Amazingly, for the past 14 years, she has never been without a comfortable place to sleep and hasn’t had the need to see a doctor.

Not only does “Living Without Money” chronicle Heidemarie’s journey toward a simpler life free from the ever-increasing pressure to buy and own, it encourages viewers to examine their relationship with money, while challenging us to break out of our spending patterns and try something new. While Heidemarie’s lifestyle may seem extreme to most, she serves as an inspiration for anyone wishing to find happiness through simplicity in our consumer-driven society. By participating in social collaboration, trading our skills and talents with the rest of the community, choosing to share rather than own, and lowering our dependence on money, we’re bound to start noticing positive and profound changes in our life.

The movie leaves the audience with a few thought provoking questions. How does money influence our way of thinking and how does it impact our life, health and the environment? How do we want to live our lives?  How can we get there together? What do we need to change in our community to make it happen? Can the world go round without money? Can we better our lives by relying more on sharing, swapping and giving? How do we move toward a happier, more collaborative, less materialistic lifestyle? Leave a comment and share your thoughts on a money-less society. 

Want to catch a free screening of “Living Without Money”? Join us on June 16th at OISE, 252 Bloor Street West, Toronto, in room 2-212 (2nd floor) at 6pm. Visit our Facebook Fan page for all details.


Chris wrote on May 19th 2011, 19:03

I loved the article. I agree that we would start caring for people more if we were not such a consumeristic society, where we focused on things more than our connection to people. If we all had one less pair of shoes, would we feel deprived? BUT if we had given that money away to someone who needed it, what a difference it would have made, physically and emotionally. Thanks for reminding us, we are here for something much more than a bigger house to put all our stuff in it.

Richard Pietro wrote on May 20th 2011, 01:17

I did catch the premiere, and I was left...I don't know...a little unfulfilled, and I think it stems from the title of the movie. With a title like "Living without Money" you would expect a movie about how to live without money. Instead, I would label this as a "human-interest" story about a woman who lives without money. You're right, though, it left me thinking about several questions...and I would have enjoyed the movie even more if the filmmakers had investigated those questions more deeply.

Jason Fonceca wrote on May 22nd 2011, 21:01

Fantastic article, and wonderful ideas presented, especially on a site like SwapSity :) I'd like to note that humanity for a period of time in our history, lived without money. We then evolved money as a convenient form of understanding 'value'. Now money is being replaced with digital/paypal banking. Perhaps there will be credits or an Equal Money System (see: Desteny.) There are people such as Heidemarie Schwermer and Mark Boyle (who has written a book about living without money.) They may be the wave of the future. I'm excited to see more ideas and where this takes us! All that being said... For the time being, I personally, absolutely adore... money :D

Kate wrote on Jun 2nd 2011, 19:15

I think it will be very interesting to see how things unfold as society becomes less dependent on symbolic monetary systems and more on our concrete needs. As the population of the earth outgrows it's ability to feed us all and with a looming water shortage, how long will it take for people to value "DIY" farming and survival skills over bills and coins?

tarek wrote on Jun 21st 2011, 04:17

i loved the movie: i am aspiring to live more like her. the discussion was great! the dvd swap experience was great! meeting teh woderful peopel that showed up was great! loved it! having wonderful swaps on swap sity! thankyou for all! looking forward to more events! hugs love tarek

Danie wrote on Jun 21st 2011, 12:57

I was really inspired by some of the concepts presented in this film. Most importantly, the idea that the 'the universe always provides us with what we need.' I have been motivated to take a long look at all of my belongings, and really start to pare down, and just keep the favourites, and things that really serve me. Many of us surround ourselves with so much stuff because of a scarcity mindset (fear), and this stuff really begins to slows us down and control (look at the extreme cases of hoarding). The woman in this film was completely free, free of burdens, free of control, and I aspire to get somewhere closer to this freedom.

Marek Zielinski wrote on Sep 21st 2012, 02:11

Yes, I can imagine. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDJ18m6KUW4

Marek Zielinski wrote on Sep 21st 2012, 02:15

World without Money and Wars. www.peace365.org ;~)

Madeleine du Toit wrote on May 28th 2014, 14:36

Living without money is an electrifying concept. I would have one reservation (I suppose I could stop and try to rationalise it, but it doesn't matter: others may feel the same): and that is, I'm not prepared to move from place to place as she seems to do. So my version would be different. A modest home that expresses my beliefs (a Green home to start with) and a minimum of possessions, which would be simple, durable, appropriate, beautiful. An extremely simple life style; simple organic diet. No waste if possible. No factory-made things! I'm not good with my hands but would swap for things made by others. Oh, it's a lovely dream.

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