Heidemarie Schwermer, a 69-year-old woman
from Germany, gave up using money 15 years ago . . .
. . . and says she’s been much happier ever since.
'Heidemarie’s incredible story began 22 years ago, when she, a middle-aged secondary school teacher emerging from a difficult marriage, took her two children and moved to the city of Dortmund, in Germany’s Ruhr area. One of the first things she noticed was the large number of homeless people, and this shocked her so much that she decided to actually do something about it. She had always believed the homeless didn’t need actual money to be accepted back into society, only a chance to empower themselves by making themselves useful, so she opened a Tauschring(swap shop), called “Gib und Nimm” (Give and Take).
Her small venture was a place where anyone could trade stuff and skills for other things and skills they needed, without a single coin or banknote changing hands. Old clothes could be traded in return for kitchen appliances, and car service rendered in return for plumbing services, and so on. The idea didn’t really attract many of Dortmund’s homeless, because, as some of them told her to her face, they didn’t feel an educated middle-class woman could relate to their situation. Instead, her small shop was assaulted by many of the city’s unemployed and retired folk eager to trade their skills and old stuff for something they needed. Heidemarie Schwermer’s Tauschring eventually became somewhat of a phenomenon in Dortmund and even prompted its creator to ask herself some questions about the life she was living.
She started to realize she was living with a lot of stuff she didn’t really need and initially decided not to buy anything else without giving something away. Then she realized how unhappy she was with her work and made the connection between this feeling and the physical symptoms (backache and constant illness) she was feeling, so she decided to take up other jobs. She began washing dishes for 10 Deutchmarks an hour, and despite many were telling her things like “You went to university, you studied to do this?”, she felt good about herself, and didn’t feel like she should be valued more because of her studies than someone working in a kitchen. By 1995, the Tauschring had changed her life so much that she was spending virtually nothing, as everything she needed seemed to find its way into her life.
So in 1996. she took the biggest decision of her life: to live without money. Her children had moved out so she sold the apartment in Dortmund and decided to live nomadically, trading things and services for everything she needed. It was supposed to be a 12-month experiment, but found herself loving it so much that she just couldn’t give it up. 15 years later, she still lives according to the principles of Gib und Nimm, doing various chores for accommodation in the houses of various members of the Tauschring, and loving every minute of it. Schwermer has written two books about her experience of living without money and asked her publisher to give the money to charity so it can make many people happy instead of just one. She’s just happy being healthier and better off than ever before.
All of her belongings fit into a single-back suitcase and a rucksack, she has emergency savings of €200 and any other money she comes across, she gives away. Heidemarie doesn’t even have health insurance as she didn’t want to be accused of stealing from the state, and says she relies on the power of self-healing whenever she gets a little sick.' (snip) ...
NOTE: This article is originally published at this website:
A Synopsis of the Documentary 'Living Without Money.'
'The documentary Living Without Money portraits the life of 68 year old Heidemarie Schwermer, a German woman who made a deliberate choice to stop using money 14 years ago. She cancelled her apartment, gave away all of her belongings and kept nothing but a suitcase full of clothes. This was a decision that changed the entire outlook on her life dramatically.
Today, after 14 years, she is still living almost without money and claims she is feeling more free and independent than ever. The film follows Heidemarie in her day to day life and shows the challenges she meets by living an alternative lifestyle.
Heidemarie is constantly on the move, meeting new people, staying with old and new friends for a few nights. She is never worried about the future, she’s not even pre-occupied about where she will sleep next week or where she will find her next meal. She knows by experience that things always work out for her as long as she is open to whatever happens. She travels all around Germany, often she is also in Austria, Switzerland and Italy, holding lectures about her experience and trying to convey the message that an easier way of life is possible.
What started out as exchanging favors in lieu of money has now become a lifestyle. She is always trying to help others find a path to a simpler and more harmonic life. She enjoys life in the moment she is living instead of being preoccupied with the future.
In the film we follow Heidemarie in her day-to-day life and experience how she goes about to find food, transport and a place to stay. In addition to showing the daily challenges she meets from living without money, we get to hear more about Heidemarie’s life philosophy and why she has chosen to live this way. We see that it is not only easy for her to live without money in a society where everything is based on money and the value of a person is measured on how wealthy he or she is. People Heidemarie meets on her way, often have strong opinions about her lifestyle. Some call her a “parasite” and claims she is living off others, while some see her as a “visionary source of inspiration”.Through her story we can consider money’s influence on our way of thinking, living and acting and the impact this has on our own lives and health and our environment. This film explores these ideas and reflects of themes of materialism and over-consumption.' (snip) ...