Suck poor people with money

Heidemarie Schwermer: A life without money

Heidemarie Schwermer has been living without any money and without an apartment for 14 years. But she by no means feels poor.

Everything Heidemarie Schwermer owns fits in her small trolley. In it she has stowed a couple of thick sweaters, pants and T-shirts, shoes, some toiletries and a book. She'll soon be swapping her winter clothes for spring clothes. The 68-year-old doesn't own anything else. She has lived without money and without a flat of her own for 14 years. She never stays in one place for more than a week.

Heidemarie Schwermer is a fun-loving person. She wears an extravagant striped sweater with huge batwing sleeves, is discreetly made up and is bursting with energy as she talks about her life in a Viennese café. At an age when others are retiring, Schwermer decided to start all over again - without a state safety net. “I thought I was trying to get by for a year without money and without an apartment.” What began as an experiment has now become unpredictable, exciting everyday life for Schwermer.

In her old life, Heidemarie Schwermer worked as a psychotherapist in Dortmund. Even then she was concerned with the compulsion to consume, the throwaway society and the distribution of wealth. Her answer to the search for meaning: She founded a cashless zone, a barter ring. In a small shop, people could hand in things they no longer needed, while others would get what they needed. Later, the members of the exchange ring brought their skills: cutting hair against car repairing or babysitting against baking cakes. "Give and take" is what she called the exchange. "That's why I didn't need much money back then."

Start with the houseplant. Heidemarie Schwermer experienced the initial spark for a life without possessions in 1996. At the time, friends had asked her to take care of their houseplants while they were on vacation. And if she wanted, she could spend the night in the apartment right away. Schwermer saw her time had come. At first she kept her apartment. “I always had to go back to my own corner. Later I practiced in order to feel good elsewhere too. ”Finally, she gave up her own four walls. Her two grown children were horrified. Her friends thought that would pass again: “They said she would be sensible again.” Today they have long since got used to their lifestyle and admire Schwermer for their consistency.

For eleven years she adhered very strictly to her penniless life. For several years she has been moving into a small pension. “I didn't have to take the pension,” says Schwermer. But she did and has been giving away the money ever since. With the pension came health insurance. "But I haven't been to the doctor for 20 years."

Schwermer is convinced that money is far too high a priority in society. But it is not about getting rid of money. “That would be idiotic.” She “just didn't want to take part anymore” - and to show that one can also live differently: “We always just have to function and perform. And then people sit there with their ego and their jealousy. ”If you were striving for as many zeros as possible in your bank account, you wouldn't take the time to find out what you want. "Everyone has their place where they can develop."

Just like the young man who always invites you to take a train ride. “Because he is disabled, he can take someone with him on the train. And sometimes that's me, ”says Schwermer with a smile. “And he's so happy because he found his gap. Is not that great!"

She is repeatedly accused of having an unconventional lifestyle only because others are taking care of things like apartments or food. “You're scrounging and we have to buy it,” Schwermer often hears. “I not only take, I also give,” she replies. However, she also admits that a world could hardly work in which all people would live according to their principles.

In the meantime, Heidemarie Schwermer no longer wants to live in just one place, in one house. Many could not understand that. “Traveling is fun, and so much is possible with strangers.” She spends a few days with a friend in Vienna. In return, she vacuums the apartment - "my hostess hates that" - and does some household chores. After her stay in Vienna, Schwermer went on to Munich.

Always on the go. “Many live alone in large houses and do not feel well. Often the women are alone, the children have left the house, the husband has died. ”They would not be so lonely if they opened their house to strangers every now and then as part of a housing exchange or a barter. Mostly she travels in Germany, Austria, Northern Italy and Switzerland. "I don't feel like a German anymore."

Schwermer believes that the desire for constant change of location stems from her childhood. In 1942 she was born in East Prussia, now Lithuania. As a refugee, she came to Germany with her family. Since then, she has been thinking about a new world.

Schwermer has written books about her life without money, gives lectures and appears on talk shows. She donates the fee, or she has her lectures paid for in "kind" such as prepaid cards for her - given - mobile phone. But what does this life bring you? She sees herself as an “idealist” and “utopian” who fights for a less material world. “I didn't just want to fool around, I just wanted to start.” And now Heidemarie Schwermer can no longer imagine stopping with this life again.

Heidemarie Schwermer worked in Dortmund as a teacher and psychotherapist before she decided in May 1996 to live without money.

Consumer criticism had been a matter of concern to her for a long time. Among other things, she founded the "Gib und Nimm" swap exchange.

In book form Schwermer also recorded her experiences. The best known is "The Star Taler Experiment. My life without money ”.

("Die Presse", print edition, May 16, 2010)