Living Below the Line: Days 3 & 4 Sustaining and living with less

WASHINGTON, MAY 11, 2012 – The challenge has begun to take a toll on us.  Our food supply is dwindling, but should last us one more day.  We are down to 3 eggs, a few slices of bread, 2 American sandwich “slices,” and one cup of lentils.

The constant hunger, lack of variety, and lack of anything sweet- shopping mistake number 28- has made me start to think about self-sustainability.

If you really had little or no money, could you even survive, much less thrive?  After my experience, my immediate answer would be no, but in fact there are many people who live without money or with little money who are very happy with their choice.

The Extremes

I found a number of people who had taken up a no-money lifestyle.  The first person I came across was Heidemarie Schwermer, a 69-year old German woman who has lived without money for the past 16 years.  Schwermer is the subject of a 52-minute documentary film by Line Halvorsen, Living Without Money, released in 2010.  A former teacher and psychotherapist with two grown daughters, Schwermer admits that her drastic change in lifestyle was not warmly received by many of her family and friends.  At first.

Schwermer’s journey started in 1994 after she divorced and opened a small swap shop (Tauschring) where people could exchange goods and services for goods and services that they needed.  The shop did not use money in any way, only barter.  Two years later, she quit her job, got rid of all of her possessions excluding what she could fit into a small suitcase and backpack, and set off to live without money for one year.

She loved the experience so much that she has continued to live this way for the last 16 years.  She has written three books on her adventures and philosophy.

Schwermer does housework, gardening, and physical therapy sessions for various members of the Tauschring in exchange for food, a place to stay, and anything else she needs.

She has an emergency fund of € 200 and does not have health insurance.  “Money distracts us from what’s important,” says Schwermer , “The way things are today, it just doesn’t work.”

Mark Boyle, stopped using money in 2008.  Like Schwermer, what was initially a 12-month experiment has turned into a way of life.  Boyle lives in a camper he got on Freecycle and volunteers at an organic farm.

He grows all his food, makes his own laundry detergent by boiling nuts, and uses cuttlefish bones mixed with fennel seeds for toothpaste.

Daniel Suleo is the subject of the book, The Man Who Quit Money.  Suelo, who studied anthropology at the University of Colorado, says he always felt uneasy living with and working for money.  According to Suelo, the need for acquisition finally made him clinically depressed.

In the fall of 2000, Suelo decided to go without money or “conscious barter.” He does not use government programs like food stamps, welfare of Medicare.  He lives in a cave near Moab, Utah on public lands and house sits for people in the winter.  Suelo tries to live off nature, eating grasshoppers, raccoons, squirrels, and drinking juniper tea.  He has eaten road kill and gone dumpster diving when he needed to.  He has chronicled his experiences on his website Moneyless World, since 2006.

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