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She was a woman who grew up in Prussia and was the daughter of a very successful businessman. Heidemarie Schwermer's family had a full-time gardener and also a nanny on their payroll during her childhood. When war came to Europe in 1939, Schwermer and her family lost all of their wealth and had to flee. After World War II, her father was able to start again. He started a tobacco company and within time, her family was once again wealthy.
Unhappy with Wealth
Schwermer was glad for her family's wealth. But Schwermer now found herself at odds with their affluent lifestyle. She knew her family had once again become rich, but they had to defend it. Schwermer got tired of justifying herself no matter if she was rich or poor. The key connection to both situations in her mind was money.
During her 50s, Schwermer had a job as a teacher and then became a psychotherapist. She was being paid good money for her work. The money didn't seem to satisfy what she was feeling inside. Schwermer found herself missing the formative years of her childhood that were filled with strife and struggle. This led her to work hard to find different ways to live without money. The first step happened in 1994 when she set up Germany's first exchange circle. It was a way people could help one another by swamping simple services. The exchange could involve trading everything from house cleaning and babysitting for tangible goods and more. Schwermer found using the exchange circle required her to need money less and less. Then a friend asked her to house sit for her. This is when Schwermer decided to attempt to live without money for an entire year. It would be her personal experiment involving life with no money.
One of the first things Schwermer did was to sell everything she owned. This included her apartment. She only kept some small items that could easily be packed into a suitcase. This was going to be an experiment that Schwermer anticipated would only last for 12 months. It became the way she lived until she died. During the year, she realized she had developed a new and happier life. At the end of the initial 12 months, Schwermer realized she didn't want to go back to her old life.
During the first months of her experiment, Schwermer resided with old friends. Her chosen lifestyle gained a lot of interest from many people. Schwermer was then asked to give talks about her mission. She was able to meet many people on the lecture circuit who offered to be her host. Schwermer only accepted the train fair when she agreed to do a speaking engagement. Any attempts to pay her were rejected. In many of the homes of her hosts, she would do odd jobs. This could be anything from window washing to gardening and more. This was a way she could earn her keep. After several years of living without money, her hosts never expected anything in return.
A documentary was made about Schwermer's life in 2010. It is simply called Life Without Money. It has been screened over 299 times in more than 29 countries. In the documentary, audiences can see her forage for leftover food items at a fresh air market. She asks vendors for any unwanted leftovers. She also finds useful things in heaps on the ground. Schwermer tells people that at the end of all things, money is simply a utility. It is a key that can unlock certain types of freedom to travel and live a certain way. She needed time to figure out what she valued and what made her authentically happy. Schwermer eventually discovered she didn't need money to get what she really wanted from life.
Read More From Toughnickel
Heidemarie Schwermer also wrote a book about her experience with living without money. It. sold very well. It was called The sterntaler experiment – my life without money. She refused to keep any of the money she made from the book. Schwermer gave it away in small bills to people who passed by her until it was all gone. She also appeared on many television shows to talk about her moneyless life.
Retirement and Death
Schwermer took some time to decide if she wanted to accept a pension or refuse it. She decided to take it and give it away to those who she knows could use the money. Schwermer refused to discuss old age or go to a doctor. She would tell others that people her age often prefer to sit in their gardens. She liked to spend her time traveling. Heidemarie Schwermer died of cancer on March 23, 2016, in Kassel, Germany. She was 73 years old and had lived without money for 21 years.
Before her death, Schwermer was very active with traveling, giving lectures, and consultations concerning how to live without money. Schwermer often told people how the modern world is designed so a person can get everything they need without money. She believed her experiment that lasted over two decades proved her right.
Trailer for Documentary: Living Without Money
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