Can you live without money? Heidemarie Schwermer can. This 71-year-old German lady stopped using money about 18 years ago. But no, she does not go hungry or live on the street. She does not own a house, and all her belongings fit into a tiny suitcase. Is this minimalism at its extreme? Schwermer thinks this is liberation and says she is happier now than when she owned tons of stuff.
So how does Schwermer survive? She lives in Dortmund and does small jobs like cleaning, washing windows, and gardening in exchange for food and accommodation. Her friends donate clothes to her, and she gives away whatever she cannot carry around. She is often invited to give lectures on her revolutionary alternative lifestyle. On these occasions, she accepts only the railway fare. She has kept aside €200 for emergencies and gives away anything extra she receives. She does not have health insurance, preferring to rely on her self-healing powers.
Schwermer’s cashless life started as an experiment for just 12 months, but has become a permanent way of life!
Heidemarie Schwermer was born into a wealthy Prussian family. But during the 2nd World War, her family was stripped of their riches and forced to flee to Germany. Schwermer’s father managed to rebuild their fortunes, but she was not comfortable with her affluent lifestyle. She saw the homeless people around her and felt compelled to justify her wealth. She went to the university, became a teacher, and then worked as a psychotherapist. But even with her cushy job, Schwermer felt something was missing from her life.
Looking for ways to reduce her dependence on money, Schwermer set up Give and Take, a swap shop where people could exchange their services, skills, and possessions for things they need. She was so inspired by living a life where money was not a necessity that she decided to try living cash-free for a year. So in 1996, at the age of 53, Heidemarie Schwermer sold her apartment and almost all her belongings and embarked on a nomadic life.
Schwermer’s lifestyle may be too radical for many of us. But she has a point when she says money distracts us from what is important in life. She found peace, happiness, and companionship by ditching money. Can we reduce our attachment to money? Schwermer’s life has the blueprint—pare down your possessions, avoid debts, make time for friends and family, and extend a helping hand in return for nothing.