Living without Money Video
Living without Money

Sign Up NowWatch the full video - and many others - now with your Gaiam TV subscription!

Living without Money (2010)

Not available in Italy, Taiwan

Is it possible to feel rich without possessions? Can you live happily without money? In the documentary Living without Money, we meet the German woman Heidemarie Schwermer (68) who made a deliberate choice to live without money 14 years ago. One day she cancelled her flat, donated all of her belongings and started a new life based on exchanging favors – without the use of money. The experiences she made totally changed her outlook on life.

Today she is living an interesting and adventurous life, which is very much related to living in the moment without worrying about the future. She is constantly on the move and always trying to help others find their path towards a more simple and harmonic life. The reactions against her are many and various. While some get angry and call her a parasite, others think she is a visionary and a great source of inspiration.

Line Halvorsen
German with English subtitles

People who watched this also watched

Join the Conversation

Login or sign upsign up to add a comment

rayracine, posted on November 1, 2015

What a beautiful lady! thank you for sharing GaiamTV!

m5gogo, posted on September 10, 2015

So courageous for her to do what she does; she's a pathfinder for us to see where we are now, and guide us to awaken.

dona7angel, posted on September 7, 2015


Batb_A, posted on July 28, 2015

This was incredible. This lady is so ahead of her time and she is 100% correct. I was in awe of her. There is going to be a time where we will be without money and we will have to depend on each other to survive. We will share from the heart not the wallet. Thank you for this not inspiring film! BRAVO.

tunterho, posted on March 26, 2015

A very rare individual with such strong ideals and she lives them to set an example for the world.

cindyfox, posted on March 23, 2015

I certainly understand how getting rid of material possessions could make you dance with joy ! Living a very simple lifestyle is not what corporations want to hear we lemmings talking about ! I don't see that money is a problem, it's our attitude towards it that leads us astray. Overspending on things we don't need has become an addiction and like most addictions will never make us happy. Declutter your life and your spirit will fly free. This movie speaks to that in a powerful way.

Nowvoyager, posted on March 23, 2015

I thought the film was excellent. I was once a Peace Corps Volunteer. Until that experience no one could tell me that I could keep myself clean with just a bucket of water which came from my well, or live on $288 a month. I had a "hot" bucket bath every day because I would sit my water filled bucket in the sun every morning. When I came home from work the water would be so hot that I had to cool it down with more water from the well. My PC experienced taught me that I could do all that I needed to do with far less. I just wish that people would not make fun of her. In the beginning human beings lived without money. We helped each other. Maybe we will again., posted on May 2, 2015

Thank you for your insightful comments about the sun water. It is likened to people now purchasing camping showers that are hung from a tree and heated by the sun, yet the bucket is more durable and long lasting, it seems, while not being as portable.

I agree with you that I wish people would not make fun of her. I think her courage is amazing and one that is encouraging to others.

ozinoman, posted on March 6, 2015

I feel this movie was like an onion with many layers to it. "Money distracts us from what is important", yes it can. I think her message is a positive one and she lives by the law of attraction which is lovely to see. Interesting movie, one to ponder.

kreitzmannco, posted on December 8, 2014

What a beautiful life. Life is simple. We can do this. We will eventually be forced to do it. The worlds problem is not money but greed. However, our society rewards greed. A society of sharing will not reward them because ecsess it not purposeful. I do note that she has wisdom of a fluent life style therefore has the knowledge to flow easier, having friends with things and more things. A poor individual may not have those skills due to lack of exposure. This type of living is coming but I don't think it will be in my life time. Thank you for being brave and planting seeds.

DanielleGodfrey, posted on September 10, 2014

Interesting concept but would be very hard to apply especiallly with rich people and corporations. But I like the idea of bartering a lot and I do it myself. I exchange yoga lessons as a teacher against manicures/pedicures and facials with clients that are estheticians, it works out well.

ceritasfgp, posted on September 6, 2014

Take only what we need, but that isn't the way most businesses are run.

A little help is not tthe same as a handout, we are rapeing "Mother Earth" not for the masses but for a few. Raaising our own garden vegetables in small areas, within diversity and usually more than we need, which can be shared or bartered etc.

We have so much and really need very lttle, we are trained to produce and want things....they may provide education and entertainment but...does it rally create a deep personal feeling of love and happiness or contentment... cake today...then what? More mindless consuming and EGO based entertainment.

This woman really gets it, but it is not an easy or quick transition... one step and person at a time reducing excess consumerism.


patkam36, posted on September 6, 2014

I commend Heidemarie for her trust in an invisible power. I understand what she is doing and yet it may not be totally practical for most of us.
I mean someone originally paid for the coats, shoes and dresses she wears. They had to have had money somewhere down the road. The cars she hitches a ride in need gas and to be maintained..the trains and planes and hotels do not maintain themselves. Someone who had money purchased her tickets for her with their money. So I can see what she is doing can work for a short term and in a pinch when you find yourself in a corner. But in the long run, I like choosing my own clothes and shoes. I like having choice and still not have money rule my life.

cyndykated, posted on June 6, 2014

see craigslist joe...he lives off craigslist for a month..on the road....just starting to watch this!

karina, posted on June 4, 2014

I get the idea behind it, to not create a greedy world, but in the end she is still living from somebody elses money,
so the issue about money doesn't disappear. Money is a form of energy exchange too. In a way she pushes a lot of buttons. as she takes from others, even if an exchange of energy is offered. This idea of bartering is not new, anyway she makes people think and feel and for that I honour her.

darlene_watson, posted on September 9, 2014

I admire the thought behind. I really get it but I wonder who paid for the train ride to the next speaking engagement. I could understand this more living a simple life with her own gardens etc not paying for food but rather growing her own. But travel costs and someone is paying for the trips. I don't think you can say you live without money that is a very strong statement as someone is buying or supplying her food and shelter., posted on May 2, 2015

Yes, I agree there is still money spent somewhere, through gifts given by the kindness of others. Perhaps, traveling is more costly than merely staying in one location? That is something to ponder too.

Yet, I still find this rather inspiring that someone had the courage to do this AND that others are supporting her in this quest too. Yet, I imagine it is helpful for her to do it from her more affluent background vs. someone on the opposite end who went through great sufferings (including mental health), and are living on the streets. (Thankfully, there are kind people who donate time and items to charities for their sake- and I am one of them.)

I think, for me, this film mostly encourages the idea of bartering and re-use as well as community having the mindset of sharing forward what they can. As I recall, she exchanged her services too and wasn't seeking a mere handout, per se. That is the difference of some that live on the streets and why some shun them, in comparison.

In summary, bartering, sharing forward, and a growing compassion and empathy for others, while being open to positive change within community and universally is the message I receive from this overall.

katiewalkerca, posted on June 3, 2014

First about the film. I was really impressed with the simplicity of the filming. It did not appear to gloss over or avoid the struggles, nor did it seek to dramatise unnecessarily. I think this is an art in itself, the ability to convey someone's life in a way that it makes me think: yes, yes I think I have a good idea of what it is like to live as this person in this world. Also, the film was interesting from beginning to end. It was exactly the right documentary style for this story.

As for HeideMarie, it was a real pleasure to learn about her life choices. In a world where it seems almost impossible (even paralysing) to try to come up with solutions - in favour of just criticism - this woman has not only thought of a creative way forward, but she is living it. I love the fact that she is not saying everyone should live as she does; she suggests people make their own choices, but notice that the current system is failing, and one way or another, we always make choices.

I think it is rare and beautiful to see a person living so closely aligned to their values. THANK YOU to all involved in allowing us to learn about her valuable life's work. For me it really provides food for thought on how I live day to day, what the priorities are, and how I want to see my future. How do my everyday actions, every single day, contribute to a world that promotes the values I believe in?

Also, just a side note. I think it is interesting that people are surprised that she has so many options on where to sleep; that it is simply not an issue for her. To me a key point there was that many people have lots of space and food for an extra person in their home, this is not surprising. To me it seems obvious that we live in a culture where people are constantly hungry for a sense of connection and sold all kinds of ideas about where they can buy it. She provides a very rare commodity in today's market: presence and genuine connection.

be29464, posted on January 4, 2014

I get it Heidi-Marie. I understand you. I was watching this documentary on Hawaii. Before they were overtaken by the greedy sugar cane farmers, they took care of themselves. They lived off the land and fished. Food and water was plentiful and the Hawaiians weren't thinking of money to survive. But they're losing their fertile land and water and many of them live in their cars and work three jobs. Now they are are forced to be consumed with the thought of money as a means of survival. We can find a similar story almost anywhere these days. I get what you re doing. You are a person of faith and you know you will be taken care of, especially by people who also see the faith reflected in your eyes. That's how they know instinctively what to do. BTW, if you ever are coming to the states, you have a place to stay at my house!

wireframemonster, posted on December 20, 2013

Money is simply an exchange of energy from one person to another, she simply chooses to exchange energy in a different way and chooses to only use the energy in which she requires instead of being greedy and storing it away in a bank account. So many things are simplified if we eliminate the need to compete for resources. At least she attempt to exchange work for her needs which is much more beneficial to society than those that stand and ask for money in exchange for nothing. There are many intentional communities that choose to live in an economic environment that allows them to live and operate as a unit with a minimum amount of money, producing and sharing their own resources which is wonderful. Unfortunately, it is impossible to get on completely without money if you have land and housing for a group of people due to taxes, but it is completely possible to live comfortably using a minimum amount of money and resources if you are willing to use only the resources that are necessary instead of attempting to impress and amass riches. No one can truly own anything. We need to stop believing there is only one way to exchange goods and services and be more creative and be more willing to live like a global family unit.

Lwilcox, posted on December 18, 2013

I am so inspired by her story! I am a corporate worker bee with three kids in public education, and I see the insanity of the world and want to teach them a simpler way of BEING, but society offers so much resistance it is overwhelming at times. This story truly moved me <3.

Thank you, Heidenarie, for being a bold pioneer to the future! Much love! XOXOXO

Candrews, posted on December 10, 2013

The woman has courage to live close to her values, although I wonder if it takes some toll, as she is affected by the opinions of others. maybe she is just feeling the energy, but blessings to her. I know years ago in Illinois there was a group who was trying to just rely on bartering, getting credits and trading credits, but then the state moved in and wanted to tax the lot. Don't know what happened after that. not the same as this movie, but a great first step. I like what the young girl said, that she just saw people helping people. That, fir me is the ideal.

darciejohnson, posted on December 9, 2013

An extraordinary, courageous woman. Here are a few quotes from the documentary that I have felt myself.

"With every step I take towards letting go, I have more freedom"

"I have developed a strong confidence. I know that everything I need will always be available to me."

"Money distracts us from what is important....togetherness and selflessness. Acting from the heart..."

Recently I have been learning about Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk originally from Vietnam. I've been reading some of his works, learned about the monasteries he has created for monastics and lay people. I've noticed how money is utilized but it carries no power. What is important is community, relationships, communication, helping each other, helping others at a price that is fair rather than the price that could be had due to his fame.

Here's a link to a youtube about a song written by one of the young monks and performed by a number of them. Watching it, looking at their faces, I felt the incredible wealth that they possess but not a one owns anything probably not even the cloths they wear.

At one time in my live I made a lot of money, but like so many now, it brought more headaches, more endless striving for more, then striving and pressure to maintain. I have downsized 3 times now and each time I have felt lighter. There is room for more to go...lots more.

So....for moment, I asked myself, could I let go of everything, like Heidemarie? .....Fear appeared...."I'd have to give up my 2 little dachshunds and what would happen to them?" Then more fear... then this thought........." Truth is, I would find a way to keep them in my life and probably benefit another life by bringing them into their life...."

I'm not ready to give up everything but I am ready to continue to make money less and less and less important. It is possible that someday I will get to Heidemarie's place or my version of it. What I DO know is that the less I have, the lighter I feel. The more my decisions are made without money being a factor, the richer my life gets every time that happens.

You are a visionary, Heidemarie Schermer, a role model and an affirmation that no matter where we are, we all can take small steps at a time to continue to move forward to a place money means less and the richness of life more.

Wonderful, thought provoking documentary

JackieFamilyCare, posted on July 25, 2013

Brave soul in a world which is has become so materialistic.

dahow92, posted on June 6, 2013

I could use your help. If you could send me just $1.00 I will use only what I need. Love is all there is. Contact Dawn: Only contact me if you do so with love. Your $1.00 will be very lovingly appreciated.

marystavrou, posted on May 18, 2013

I believe she is right and we do this in our own way with a property we own...we don't rent but allow anyone who would like to use it to feel free to use it...when someone offers us money(which we don't expect or ask for ) we ask for an energy exchange instead...can we use one of your properties when you are not around?...or can I attend your yoga class instead?. We must get along without money...Money represents the energy of humanity is the energy we have to create which has merely represents human value. Our present monetary system is like a game of Monopoly ...there will be a turn around the board when everyone pays all they have to the banker...then the game will end...we are moving into it exponentially.

silveeah, posted on May 17, 2013

Clean living equals clean karma...Namaste!!

marlamartenson, posted on January 26, 2013

I really enjoyed it. Very interesting.

DaveLewin, posted on January 18, 2013

Life is always supporting., posted on January 14, 2013

I love Hiedemaries heart she is a brave visionary,I see this as her translation of life coming from her described background,I dont think money is the problem but to be sure we have lost our basic connection to self and others from defining our worth thru stuff.I have a very soft heart as well and can relate to wanting deeper and richer connection to nature and family.

pozitivnrg, posted on December 26, 2012

Still keeping score..........

hkuerer, posted on September 17, 2012

Nothing spectacular or even very new or interesting here

purdytig, posted on September 6, 2012

Heartwarming and inspiring! Heidemarie is such a strong, courageous and generous person to be living the truth of her heart and sharing her wisdom about what matters and what is important in life with others. We are blessed to have people among us, like Heidimarie, who hear a higher calling and who selflessly devote their entire lives to making our world a better place.

Ministrmom83, posted on August 26, 2012

Heidemarie lives in an affluent country, with so many consumer goods available to be bought, and yet people work and work for the money to buy these things and never get to really enjoy life. And while some are never satisfied with what they have and always want more and more, there are people who have nothing and live on the streets. Her "experiment" of living without money is all about spreading the message that we don't need a lot of things to be happy. What we need is friends, family, community, and time in nature to lead a full life. More power to her.

SKANYUH, posted on July 30, 2012

Such a simplistic yet eye-opening concept; I have always marveled at the thought of a bartering system and what community initiatives and interconnectedness that it would bring. Ironically, this system would bring more security and yet the biggest inhibitors to all of us leading this lifestyle are fear and a loss of connection with self and our creative consciousness.

dc7871093, posted on July 30, 2012

Love to know where she gets alllll those coats. And her answer that "she thinks about it and things just fall into her lap" doesn't quite sit well. Also, just how much of her pension does she keep ? She is correct, however, when she talks about doing what is right for her and her values. I do like the concept...

Lolk, posted on July 29, 2012

...Is far beyond the current methodologies, and requires a world view not common at this time in history. What sweetness there is in her trust. I understand her tears at what she sees. There may be many areas in which our societies seem advanced, but seeing this, I can't help but also see how primitive humanity still is in certain ways.

david, posted on March 1, 2012

Regardless of how you live with or without money, i think this womans point rings true at the end , to live in selflessness to others, to give without expecting anything in return, she is showing others how it can be done, you can see this womans pain for humanity, and her desire to truly help others, and that is selflessness. a wonderful example.

michalL, posted on March 1, 2012

Well said!!

kozarek, posted on February 26, 2012

I admire Heidemarie for doing this but I don't think it's practical for everyone even if they want to. I'd probably get chased out of the store if I wanted to exchange something for food. What do you do if you need medical care or going to the dentist? Most won't even see you without insurance and for that you need money., posted on February 21, 2012

All I can say is Heidemarie is a beautiful spirit who has a profound connection and understanding with our Creator. Bless you Heidemarie Schwermer on your Journey.

kmbrlysue, posted on February 12, 2012

I'm not one to join in on such a journey as this, but I do believe in a minimalist lifestyle, which can be achieved using similar principles.

Tommi, posted on February 10, 2012

So says Heidemarie Schwermer. This is a profound and true statement of this insanity call consumerism.

Password is case sensitive.

Gaiam TV is now Gaia. Learn More Here