How long can you live without money? For most, the answer is a couple of days. But one German native has been moneyless for 16 years and is still going strong.
Seventy-year-old Heidemarie Schwermer says she’s freer than ever after selling her apartment, giving away all her possessions and creating a way to live money-free back in her early 50s.
In 1994, she developed the first ‘Give and Take’ exchange program in Germany, where people could exchange their skills and possessions, like plumbing services or clothing, for similarly valuable services or goods.
Two years later, Schwermer took it a step further when she quit her job as a psychotherapist and tried living money-free. She loved her new lifestyle so much that after a year, she decided to continue down this cashless path and live out of a single suitcase.
In exchange for chores, Schwermer would request food, transport or a place to stay.
According to The Examiner, while Schwermer was growing up, her family’s financial situation fluctuated between well-off and poor; at times able to employ a nanny and full-time gardener, and at other times, earnestly looking for ways to save.
Since her lifestyle change 16 years ago, she has traded off-seasonal clothes for more weather-appropriate ones and has declined permanent housing with friends and family.
Schwermer penned a book about her experience called The Sterntaler Experiment – My Life without Money,giving the money earned from the book sales away to charity. She was also the subject of a 2010 documentary Living Without Money depicting her day-to-day experience, evidence of her unique outlook on simple living and nominal consumption.
Related: Diana Clement’s Luxury or Necessity