“Money distracts us from what’s important.”- Heidemarie Schwermer, Living Without Money

Living Without Money is a documentary by Line Halvorsen about Heidemarie Schwermer, a retired psychotherapist, who decided over 14 years ago to start living without using money.  And what I mean by money is any currency (electronic, coin or bills), any credit, and any alternative currency.  It first started out as an experiment and now it's a way of life for her.  She gave everything away, let go of her apartment and started housesitting.  She likes to travel, so this transient lifestyle suits her.  Everything she owns fits in a carry-on suitcase.  When she is not housesitting, she is invited to stay at people's homes while she is giving classes, counseling and lecturing about living without money.  Housesitting clients and organizations where she speaks pay for her travel.  She trades her labor and takes surplus food from farmer's markets and food stores to provide for her other living expenses. 

This film also shows that some people think she is just a parasite. She is not really "living without money", but living on the money of others by accepting gifts and trade from those who originally acquired their goods with money.  On the other hand, Heidemarie believes due to greed, the economic system will collapse even more than it has and we all need to start now to experience a moneyless system.  Our current monetary system creates anxiety over security concerns and many interviewed in the film expressed their fears.  But Heidemarie feels she has no worries and experiences increasing freedom the more she lets go of using money. 

Heidemarie says things don’t work in our current economic system.  People are not fulfilled. Her purpose is to create a more simple life and help others do the same.  She gives workshops where participants from all walks of life learn to live without using money for a week. Afterwards they discuss their experience in relation to moneyShe says it's not just getting a free meal; it's that more fundamental realizations happen.

A group of girls from an environmental youth group, kind of like Greenpeace, took the challenge for a week.  They started out bartering with only one pencil.  Most shopkeepers shown in the film seemed to joyfully embrace bartering with them. One shop owner just wanted to make a gift to the barterers, but the girls insisted on a trade. So he agreed to trade gifts.  They started out with a pencil and ended up bringing home bags of things.  The girls ended up understanding that you don’t even have to trade, you can just come from the level of helping each other. 

Heidemarie allows herself to get into the flow of receiving and giving without expectation of getting back.  Bartering is just a start to get into the flow of manifesting what you want.  Heidemarie says, “I have developed a strong confidence.  I know that everything I need will always be available to me.”  Money, in this case, is essentially replaced with an energy exchange. Gifts have great energy and when trading is done in this spirit, the energy exchange is huge.  You could say it's a win-win situation.  Heidemarie helped to set up exchange markets and exchange circles where people bring things to give away and people come to take whatever they want. A similar system called, The Really Really Free Market system, has sprung up all over the U.S.  This kind of system seems to be quite natural. Even in the U.S. we see penny cups provided everywhere at stores and restaurants for people to take or leave a penny.

Heidemarie does not live a poor life, she showed some of her students that they could trade for spa time.  There is great abundance all around us.  Seeing how one can take advantage of unused surpluses of food that is thrown away by farmer's markets, grocery stores and restaurants is real evidence of the abundance everywhere.  The documentary, Dive, shows that the amount of food thrown away everyday could feed the world.  So in terms of money, there is only perceived scarcity.  There is plenty to go around.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film and found it to be way too short at a mere 52 minutes.  I would love to learn more in depth about the realizations people had from not using money and Heidemarie's experiences in manifesting what she needs and wants for herself.  She has written a book on her experiences without money called, Das Sterntalerexperiment: Mein Leben Ohne Geld, or The Star Valley Experiment: My Life Without Money.  It is not yet translated into English.  I would very much like to see an expanded version of this film or a sequel.  At the very least I'd like to read the book.

I don't take this film or Heidemarie's lifestyle as the only way to live without using money.  Her lifestyle works for her because she is retired and likes to travel.  For people who would like to have a place to call home, this would not be the correct lifestyle to lead.  I have seen YouTube videos of people who have squatted and are living in make-shift shacks with no regular plumbing, or modern conveniences.  I don't think anyone has to live that way either.  There are people who are pulling away from the system more and more and becoming self-sufficient and doing it in a comfortable way. 

It may seem hypocritical to say you are living without money in a society that runs on money, but I think the point of what Heidemarie is trying to show people is how to live calmly and abundantly if and when the global economy completely collapses.  I used to be in a group to create a local currency.  One of our members would always bring up the point that if we woke up and there was no money, we would soon realize that we don't need it.  At that time, I didn't believe that people would have the presence of mind to think like that.  After seeing this film it now makes sense.   This documentary is an example of how people can choose to live their lives if money does disappear.  Heidemarie also says, “Many people tell me, ‘With you around, life is easier.’…..”Many people write to tell me, ‘Your living without money encourages us, because we fear ending up in the gutter.’”  An economic collapse doesn't have to be hunger, homelessness, looting and riots in the street.  An economic collapse can actually be an experience of freedom from a system that causes us so much anxiety and a realization of great abundance and self-empowerment.  It's how we choose to perceive it. 

This film is available on DVD and can be ordered online here.  And you can see a trailer here. I haven't seen it at Netfilx or Blockbuster yet.  I'm going to ask my local DVD store to order it. I'm sure it will be very popular in light of what's happening in our economy right now.