Monday, 10 August 2015

How To Live A (Mostly) Moneyless Life


Here is a more detailed how-to guide on finding everything for free. But before we go into the details, the most important and fundamental rule concerning your attitude to life should be made clear first and foremost:

* Be A Generous Person *
You can't expect to get things for free if you are not also a giving and generous person yourself. In life, you really do get back what you give; and sometimes in very unexpected ways. This doesn't mean that you always have to give things in return for other things. In fact, there is a lot of power in just giving or just receiving. Firstly, it makes the act more pure, especially for the unconditional giver, because there is no 'hidden agenda' of wanting to please or just following rules. This makes the experience so much more fulfilling and rewarding. Also, when you receive something for free and the other person doesn't expect anything in return, you can give the biggest gift of all, which is sincere gratitude.
A sincere thank you and a description of how you were affected by the kindness of someone else in that moment, is one of the most precious things you can give someone. This does not mean you can't also show your appreciation in other ways later on, but definitely don't skip the heartfelt gratitude. In fact, in my own life it has been this giving and receiving of sincere gratitude that has been most rewarding and transforming, especially since I started my moneyless journey.
While practicing being grateful and generous, you will discover that there are many ways to give gifts to others, other than money. Money makes people lazy, because we don't have to get creative in what we give to others. We can pay our way through life, without ever giving anything else. But without money, you discover that you can give your time, your attention, share your skills, or just share how you feel about someone. Even just being with someone can be a great gift, to both people.
Without money, the connection with others becomes more of a priority. You notice you will slow down. You may even discover that those new-found gifts are more valuable than any amount of money, and that - through your moneyless journey - you end up feel richer and wealthier than ever before.

Now, let's go into the details of getting creative and living for free.

* (Be willing to) Simplify and learn to let go *
In the process of finding ways to ban money from your life, it is important to keep an open mind and not be too attached to a certain outcome or holding on to a specific way of life. If living (for) free is really your priority, you may have to consider doing things a little bit differently than what you were used to. It helps to frequently ask yourself the following question, and ponder it carefully: "Do I really need this? (Or is there a different way of doing this?)"
When you do this every time you think you may need something, you will discover that you need a lot less stuff than you may have previously thought. Most of the time, there are alternative ways to live your life so that you don't need as much stuff. It just requires a bit of resourcefulness, creativity and the willingness to embrace new ways of living. It is more fun and adventurous too! So in the process of reducing your dependency on money, you will automatically simplify your life, learn to let go and open your mind.
Next, I will go into how you can get specific needs met without the use of money, or at least while drastically reducing the amounts you spend. With all of these following categories, remember that society's waste can be a huge resource! Waste is a huge global issue, threatening and polluting our earth, and a lot of useful stuff is thrown away every day. Remember that next time you want to buy something: that product you want to buy is probably about to be thrown away by someone somewhere on earth, at that very moment. And it may be somewhere near you!

1. Food and water
Of course food/water is one of the most important things we need. Luckily, food is plentifully available if you know where to look. You can try dumpster diving, or if you don't want to eat from dumpsters you can set up a food rescue program to collect food waste directly from the supermarkets and set up a community kitchen where you use the rescued food to prepare free meals for anyone who wants to join, or agree on (=with the supermarket's permission!) using a small portion (1-5%) for yourself and donate the rest to people in need. Another option is to go into nature and learn about edible wild plants. You will discover that there is a lot of nutritious food growing all around you! (that is if you live in a reasonably green place).
Found foods
Drinking water can be found in mountainous areas with streams and waterfalls. The higher you collect your water, the cleaner it will be. Just follow the stream upwards. Of course you can also collect rainwater, filter it and drink that. Also inform yourself about viruses, bacteria and chemicals that may lurk in your water and what you can do about it. Sometimes just boiling the water can be enough to purify it. There may also be springs or wells in your area, where you can find clean (or reasonably clean) drinking water. Unfortunately a lot of water sources have become polluted now, so if you live a nomadic lifestyle then you may have to resort to sourcing water in public buildings in some places. Sometimes you may also find outdoor taps (in town squares, or on pilgrim roads) where you can fill up your water bottle with clean water.
Clean freshwater from the mountains in Norway
2. (Temporary) Shelter
Where do you live if you really want to live the moneyless lifestyle? Again, there are several options. If you are living in a pleasant climate, then living in a tent or building your own shelter is an option. But if you live in a cold climate (like me), or if you don't want to live in a tent or self-built home, then you can try to find a free place to live in exchange for something that you have to offer, like food or skills. Everyone has unique skills to contribute. And of course, a pleasant personality will also help. Check out how I found a free place to live here.
For getting land and building a more permanent home, check out number 9.
3. Stuff
If you choose to live in a tent, then how will you get a tent? Or if you want to build your own house/ shelter, where do you get materials? And where do you get pans, cutlery, scissors and other helpful stuff? Well, here in Norway it is very easy. There is a website (Finn.no) where people give away everything for free (even complete kitchens and tiny homes). The site even has an app so that you can see new ads immediately and have a better chance of getting the items you need. So it is very worthwhile to check if there is a website like that for your area. Craigslist (USA) also has a 'free' section.
Remember that a lot of useful stuff ends up in landfills somewhere, just because people get new stuff or no longer want it. This is bad news for the environment, unless you can stop it from ending up there, and/or prevent a new purchase. So reusing stuff that others are about to throw away is a good thing. And if you discover you no longer need the item (and you will discover you need less and less stuff over time), make sure you also give it away to someone who thinks they need it.
Another option is bartering. Offer something valuable in return for what you need and explain why you feel that you really need the item(s) and how your life can be enriched if someone can help you out (this is 'gratitude in advance'). Also explain that you are doing a challenge and are trying to live without money. Many people actually find that very inspiring and feel compelled to help out. I have met a lot of kind and very generous people through my challenge. It really brings out the best in everyone, including myself.
I got these bike trailers for free

If you can't find something for free and you still believe you really need it, you can also get creative and try to make an alternative from things you find. You will be surprised what you can make if you really need something and challenge yourself not to buy it. It is very empowering and it is a great way to train your resourcefulness! You can do research online or in your local library. Or perhaps you can just borrow the item! If you only need to use it occasionally, then why buy your own?
A final option is birthdays. Some people will always insist on giving birthday presents (even if  you say you no longer participate in the tradition, such as I have), so then you can ask them for practical stuff that you couldn't find for free, instead of useless things that just take up space.

4. Clothes
How often do you really need new clothes? And how many pairs of shoes do you really need? Turns out, not that many. I have had the same two pairs of shoes for at least 5 years now and they still look great. And I haven't needed new clothes for about the same amount of time. I have had some of my clothes for at least 15 years! Meanwhile they have gone in and out of fashion several times. By the way, if you wash your clothes by hand, they last even longer.
Having said all that, if you do need new clothes, there is definitely an abundance of clothes in most countries, so they shouldn't be hard to find at all. If they are not given away freely by individuals where you live, you could learn to make clothes yourself. You can also try organizations that collect and redistribute donated clothes (and other things). Usually they have so much supply that they even have to throw a lot away themselves, so you probably wouldn't be disadvantaging anyone who may need it more than you do. But if this is a worry for you, you can ask them if they have an oversupply, just to make sure. Personally I have never had to go to charity organizations for clothes, because there are so many people who think they always need to comply with the latest fashion trends and only wear their clothes for one season. There are also groups of people (usually women) who organize clothing-swaps where they get together and give away items they no longer want to wear and in exchange take someone else's unwanted clothes.
It definitely helps if you have no (or little) sense of style or make your own style, and have no interest in the latest fashion. Luckily I totally fit this description, which is very freeing in itself. It allows me to wear anything that is available and still feel absolutely wonderful. As long as my clothes are warm and comfortable (and look/fit reasonably well), I am happy. And, as stated before, relying on gifts and exchanges for clothes doesn't mean that you can't look stylish if you wanted to. People give away all sorts of clothes, sometimes even (nearly) new (for example because they don't fit anymore), so don't worry you'll have to look like a slob. Looking fashionable is just not one of my personal priorities, so I don't really spend much time on this.

5. Internet
This is very easy. There are so many places with free WiFi, that it really doesn't make sense to have your own connection. Most cafes, petrol stations, public buildings and libraries have free internet. Also, whenever you don't have internet, learn to appreciate the stillness. Enjoy meditation, knowing that you will not be interrupted by incoming emails, Whatsapp messages (if you still have a phone), and the like.
If you enjoy calling people, you can simply use Skype. Whenever I want to speak with someone, I find a place with internet and send a message via Facebook or iMessage, or if they don't have that I call their number and hang up after two tones. They know that this is a signal that I am on Skype and that they can connect with me if they are available. And it doesn't cost anything.
Of course my phone has a prepaid sim card that I never top up. My phone credit lasts a lifetime, because I never use it. Sometimes it can be tempting to use it, when someone sends me a text and they seem to have forgotten about my challenge, or when they don't know about it at all. But with a bit of practice, it becomes easier to just let it be and let go. Again, this is another important life skill to practice!

6. Health care
First of all: be responsible for your own health. If you smoke, consume alcohol (even in moderation), use medication (even if it is a contraceptive pill), live a largely indoor lifestyle, don't exercise much, eat a lot of meat / dairy / fish / processed foods, then you are more likely to get sick. If you get stressed easily, have a tendency to worry, or don't spend enough time in meditation or in nature (balancing yourself), then you are more likely to get sick. If you use a lot of toxic products, such as deodorants containing aluminum, toothpaste containing fluoride, or makeup, then you are more likely to get sick. If you eat a lot of GMOs, food with a lot of pesticides and additives, or drink contaminated water (with fluoride or other harmful chemicals or heavy metals), then you are more likely to get sick.
So find out what you put into and onto your body. Find out how to balance yourself. Get a daily dose of relaxation and spend time in nature. Move. Balance your body, mind and spirit. Keep yourself well.
Second, teach yourself about natural medicine. Learn how to do self-care in the wilderness. Learn about medicinal properties of plants and trees. Learn about holistic healthcare. Get educated about detoxing. And learn about health foods you can eat / drink to prevent illness. For example, if you know that cancer runs in your family (although the general advice is the same for any other type of disease as well), make sure to keep your body alkaline: drink water with a few drops of lemon juice throughout the day. Drink green tea or herbal teas (preferably fresh). Eat mostly vegetables. And stress less. Meditate. Appreciate nature. Learn to let go.
When it comes to replacing the contraceptive pill with natural alternatives, consider using natural methods (which requires you to be very in touch with yourself and quite dedicated, but it is free), or the Ladycomp (a small device which costs money, but may be worth the investment). Sterilization is of course the safest method and definitely something to seriously contemplate, considering the state of the earth and the decreasing space and resources of the planet, not just for humans but for all other species as well. This procedure may be free in some places of the world.
Camomile tea: anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-fungal. Also calming. Source: Edible wild plants by Fleischhauer, Guthmann and Spiegelberger.




7. Power / Energy
One of the more difficult things to find for free without relying on other people or on the excesses of society, is power. Of course the sources for solar, wind and hydro power are free, but the equipment to generate it is not free. I will look into free energy a bit more in the future, but until then, there may be places where you can charge your laptop/phone in exchange for skills/service, food or stuff that you have found along the way. For example, if you donate food to families every day, such that they don't have to go shopping anymore, then I am sure they wouldn't mind if you charge your laptop at their house sometimes. Having said that, it is nice to be fully self-sufficient, so a small solar charger might really be worthwhile to have.
You could also consider getting rid of your phone and your laptop (and other equipment that requires power), and instead just use public computers (e.g. in the library) and online storage. The less you have, the less there is to worry about, so getting rid of stuff is a very freeing experience. It is all about priorities. My priorities are freedom (in the widest sense) and peace of mind, so I may get rid of my phone and laptop eventually (after I complete my PhD).
For light and heat, you can use candles and fire. Knowing how to make a nice fire (without causing the whole forest to burn down) is of course an essential skill.

8. Hygiene
How do you keep clean without spending money? You can actually keep your body clean without using any products;  using only natural water sources. The rain provides free showers all the time. Swimming in the sea is a great way to get clean. You could also use a cloth to scrub yourself, but if you bathe often enough then this is not necessary.

Wash your clothes in a bucket of salty water or find a plant that has disinfecting properties.
Soap can also be made from natural materials, although I haven't done this yet. I have found plenty of soaps in dumpsters, so I won't run out anytime soon. But I will definitely start making my own once I go more nomad and start to rely less on dumpsters. If you Google natural soaps you can probably get a lot of ideas for making soaps and other cleaning products. For example, you can make detergent from common ivy (Hedera Helix).
You will find that as you start to eat healthier foods, your need for toilet paper will diminish. So instead of toilet paper, you can start using leaves, family cloth, or just a little water. But if you really think you can't live without TP (yet), just go to the dumpsters of big hotels, or other places that have those huge toilet rolls. They have a lot of leftovers, because when the rolls start to run out, they often replace them and throw away the small leftover part.
9. Land
Most people who want to live self-sustainably, eventually want to have their own block of land so that they can build an ecohome and grow their own food (well, at least that is what I want at some stage :P).
I believe it is a basic human right to have a place to live and settle down, as long as you live responsibly and in harmony with the earth and the other creatures (after all, we are all animals; and no other animal pays rent or taxes), but this has proven difficult for humans to accomplish. Money and greed are important reasons for this.
There are several difficulties to take into account when trying to find land without spending money. An option is to move to a country where they give away free land (yes, they still exist!), or just 'claim' a piece of land somewhere in the wilderness. You can also try trading your way to acquiring land.
Keep in mind that most countries (but not all!) have land tax, so make sure you choose your location wisely. Also, building codes may prohibit the building of an eco-friendly, self-sustainable home, so not all land or all countries are suitable, unless you are willing to risk eviction for the sake of justice. Building materials are easier to come by (depending on building codes again). Pallets are available for free in most places; just go to any kind of large store and ask. And just use as many natural materials as possible.
Until you find the perfect block of land, you can always choose to live the nomad lifestyle, foraging for food along the way and simply calling the earth 'home'.

10. Travel / Transport
Hitchhike, get yourself a free or nearly free bike, borrow a horse, rescue a horse from slaughter, build a boat, or simply walk. Yes, it will probably take a bit longer, but not being stressed to get anywhere fast you will be able to savor every moment of your journey (and you know what they say: the journey is more important than the destination). If you have all the above skills, then travel is probably the easiest to do for free, as you can devote all of your time to your travels and overcoming any obstacles along the way.
My friend Jay Randle's lovely horse Splendacrest Zafire

Final thoughts
If making the above changes seems a bit intimidating because it feels like you would have to rely on others for fulfilling some of your needs (especially in the beginning when you are still in the process of simplifying your life and training your own creativity and resourcefulness) without being able to 'pay' them, remember that you can contribute to other people's lives in so many other ways than just through money, and most of these ways to give back are much more valuable and enriching, for both parties. People may even remember you for a lifetime, because you gave them something so meaningful and unusual, even if it is just something seemingly simple like sincere gratitude, genuine interest and care, inspiration to see or do things differently, valuable life lessons, or validation of their self-worth.
You will discover that money is a very unnecessary construct, even though most of us have come to believe in it and depend on it for survival. But if you allow yourself the opportunity to stop believing in money by experiencing the alternatives, then you will see it has no inherent value. If money would cease to exist, then people would still want to keep on creating, sharing and giving to others, because that is our nature. But if there was no money, people would simply do it for different reasons. This is what my moneyless challenge is about: finding alternative ways to live and give back to others in a different way. By giving people other (and in my opinion more important) reasons to help each other out, we can eliminate the need for money, one step at a time, and transform our world.

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