“I had everything I needed, I had a house and I had raised two children. I gave it all away.”
The documentary Living Without Money portraits the life of 68 year old Heidemarie Schwermer, a German woman who made a deliberate choice to stop using money 14 years ago. She cancelled her apartment, gave away all of her belongings and kept nothing but a suitcase full of clothes. This was a decision that changed the entire outlook on her life dramatically.
Today, after 14 years, she is still living almost without money and claims she is feeling more free and independent than ever. The film follows Heidemarie in her day to day life and shows the challenges she meets by living an alternative lifestyle.
Heidemarie is constantly on the move, meeting new people, staying with old and new friends for a few nights. She is never worried about the future, she’s not even pre-occupied about where she will sleep next week or where she will find her next meal. She knows by experience that things always work out for her as long as she is open to whatever happens. She travels all around Germany, often she is also in Austria, Switzerland and Italy, holding lectures about her experience and trying to convey the message that an easier way of life is possible.
What started out as exchanging favors in lieu of money has now become a lifestyle. She is always trying to help others find a path to a simpler and more harmonic life. She enjoys life in the moment she is living instead of being preoccupied with the future.
In the film we follow Heidemarie in her day-to-day life and experience how she goes about to find food, transport and a place to stay. In addition to showing the daily challenges she meets from living without money, we get to hear more about Heidemarie’s life philosophy and why she has chosen to live this way. We see that it is not only easy for her to live without money in a society where everything is based on money and the value of a person is measured on how wealthy he or she is. People Heidemarie meets on her way, often have strong opinions about her lifestyle. Some call her a “parasite” and claims she is living off others, while some see her as a “visionary source of inspiration”. Through her story we can consider money’s influence on our way of thinking, living and acting and the impact this has on our own lives and health and our environment. This film explores these ideas and reflects of themes of materialism and over-consumption.