Why I gave up work, shopping and using money

| 24th January 2018
Joanne Nemeth at home

Joanne Nemeth is living without money.

Joanne has given up the conventional life of work, shop, drop and is now growing and scavenging her own food and living as simply as possible.

We are always reliant on others. Using money can give the illusion of self-reliance. It usually puts distance between us - the consumer - and the producers - those on whom we are reliant.

The rocket stove roars in front of me. ‘Waste’ sweet potato, home-grown onion and my Christmas gift of local rice is on the menu tonight. My moneyless meals are simple. I like it like that. Apart from the smoke blowing in my face at times, the food tastes better cooked over fire. It feels good to know no fossil fuels were used in the cooking of my dinner.

The rocket stove is a stack of old bricks. Twigs go into the bottom creating a funnel of flame to sit my pot on. I’ve spread the rocket stove love around. Three friends now have them at home and there’s one at the local community garden. 

In front of me (almost within arm’s reach) are the experimental hugelkultur garden beds I’m building for Kim and me. She seems happy. My little blue wagon is parked up in her yard. I bring food growing, and a helping hand when needed, to the equation. We often sit in the yard near the fire pit and chat – about men mostly. I did give up a man I loved to do this moneyless experiment after all.

Special things

Dinner almost ready, I duck to wash my hands in my little outdoor bathhouse. Built with old pallets and whatever I could get my hands on, it’s well hidden and private behind the wagon. Later I must remember to empty my odourless bucket loo into my experimental, upcycled wheelie bin, humanure worm farm. A lot of what I do is experimental. It has to be when choosing to live without money. Thinking outside the box is all part of the fun. 

I grow or find food. I pick up sticks to fuel the stove. I pee in a bucket. I swap and make clothes. I hitch or walk or ride my bike.  Special things like annual phone credit, a trip to the movies, a bus ticket or local rice make my birthday and Christmas gifts more meaningful.

Other special things have a seemingly ‘magical’ way of appearing. Being picked up hitching and diverted via my ride’s home for the aged contents of her cupboard – including powdered milk when I had just run out.

A crop of bunya nuts being offered for foraging the same week the best local bins aren’t available for diving. A free taxi ride (he was already heading my way), when I was running late for a meeting one night - on foot, in a strange part of town, in the dark.

I take advantage of the waste and excess of the society I am part of. It takes very little to live a comfortable life. A wide network of friends helps. Community helps. This way of living naturally builds relationships. 

A Womble

Sharing is key. I help those around me and they help me. I give my time, friendship, a helping hand, and sometimes physical resources. They open their homes to me when I visit, and gift me their waste or excess, their friendship, and sometimes a helping hand.

We are always reliant on others. Using money can give the illusion of self-reliance. It usually puts distance between us (the consumer) and the producers (those on whom we are reliant). I am face-to-face with those I’m reliant on. Together we create beautiful win-wins while I take care not to use their new resources – defeating my purpose.

My friends seem happy. There’s no talk about me being crazy. They accept me and my unconventional decisions – as long as I don’t bang on about climate change too much (something I do in my darker moments when all seems lost).

They are reducing their own carbon footprints by reducing their meat consumption, flying less, getting rid of stuff, driving more economical cars and eating locally grown food. 

After almost three years, my nearest and dearest are well trained. ‘Don’t throw anything away until you’ve checked with Jo’ is their new motto. I’ve been called a Womble on more than one occasion.

Suddenly one day

They say they don’t feel judged by me. It was only three short years ago I was doing the working, rushing, stressed, ‘chasing my tail’ thing. I barely had the time or the energy to put into deciding which of the products on the shop shelf in front of me was the least destructive.

My judgement of others is confined to those who don’t give a damn. Fortunately, I rarely come across this kind of person. I hitched a lift recently with a friendly young man who was a climate denier.

The fact that his passenger’s door or window wouldn’t open gave some momentary cause for concern, but his views on the climate were more worrying. After a respectful chat we parted on friendly terms – maybe one less denier on the planet.

In my moneyed life, the realisation of the damage I was doing was incremental. Some form of violence against others (and the natural world) is inherent in the supply chains of all those things on all those shelves. 

Not so incrementally – very suddenly one day – I found my answer. People were making the choice to live simple, low-impact, and sometimes moneyless, lives all over the world. I would too.

Simplicity and non-violence

I made this decision out of love for my daughter. While this wouldn’t make a big difference, I would not be making things worse – for her and for those already suffering the effects of our consumption.

For now, I estimate 80 percent to 90 percent less new fossil fuels and 95 percent less new resources are used in my upkeep. I still have some negative impacts when I hitch a ride, use the internet, charge my laptop at a friend’s coal-fired home and ask for powered milk as a special birthday gift. I am still part of the problem. I wrestle with this.

Sitting here, eating my simple dinner, watching the vegetables grow in the garden, the busyness of the moneyed world buzzing around me, I long to be joined by others in a life of simplicity and non-violence. 

I know the day is coming. 

It must.

This Author

Joanne Nemeth is living a moneyless life to reduce her environmental and social footprint. With one loose rule to not use new resources, Jo tries to use the excess of the world around her. She is a fan of sharing and collaboration at a local level.

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