Three hundred and twenty-five

“Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can”
– John Lennon

Choosing to live in poverty/without money

I’ve written about how poverty can be devastating.  How it plays a toll on physical health, mental well being and social networks.  But there are those people who choose to live in poverty.  Whether it be for environmental, political, religious or personal reasons, the following people choose the absence of money as a way of life.

Monks and Nuns

The vow of poverty made in the name of religion is one that many people know.  According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, the vow of poverty “may generally be defined as the promise made to God of a certain constant renunciation of temporal goods, in order to follow Christ… A person who has made this vow gives up the right to acquire, possess, use, or dispose of property except in accordance with the will of his superior.”  From

the vow of poverty is not related to being poor, but rather to sharing everything in common. Those who embrace the vow of poverty do not claim private ownership of any possessions. Everything they have is used for the common good of the religious Order.

When Sister Ema of the Sisters of Mercy of Americas was asked whether she liked being poor, her response was:  “I don’t consider myself poor. Actually, I have all my needs met. It’s just that I choose to live simply. I think this is a difficult concept for many people given the way our society works.”

A similar view is found in Buddhism, where the lay people are expected to pay for and provide for the Buddhist monks who have taken a vow of poverty. (More information on the University of Wyoming Religious Studies Program study on the Buddhist Life)


I wrote about freegans during my vegan month.  They are generally environmentalists who boycott capitalist economy and instead choose to “avoid using money; forage for food; recycle, compost and repair broken goods instead of throw them away, or share, give away, or trade goods in free markets and online (places like the free section on craigslist and; hitchhike, trainhop, walk, skate or bike as transportation; look for rent-free housing – become squatters who occupy and rehabilitate abandoned buildings; grow community gardens, or forage for food in city parks or in the wild; reduce their need to by employed, instead “caring for our families, volunteering in our communities, and joining activist groups to fight the practices of the corporations who would otherwise be bossing us around at work.” (”  More info from my post here.

Mark Boyle, a well-known freegan and the founder of The Freeconomy Community, writes on The Guardian Green Living Blog here and here about why he has chosen to live a life without money and what he has learned from it.  A quote from Boyle: “The degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed have increased so much that we’re completely unaware of the levels of destruction and suffering embodied in the stuff we buy. The tool that has enabled this separation is money.  If we grew our own food, we wouldn’t waste a third of it as we do today. If we made our own tables and chairs, we wouldn’t throw them out the moment we changed the interior decor. If we had to clean our own drinking water, we probably wouldn’t contaminate it.”

This German Grandma

Sixty-nine-year-old grandmother of three Heidemarie Schwermer has lived sixteen years without money.  She is the subject of a documentary, entitled Living Without Money (trailer below), by director Line Halvorsen.  In 1996 Schwermer decided to live without money as an experiment.  She gave away all of her possessions except what she could fit in a suitcase and backpack, and has been living nomadically ever since.  “Living without money gave me quality of life, inner wealth, and freedom.”  She trades gardening and cleaning for places to sleep and food to eat. “Money distracts us from what is important.”  (more information on Yahoo here)