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. Schwermer worked as a middle-aged secondary school teacher emerging from a difficult marriage. In Germany’s Ruhr area, 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.