Heidemarie Schwermer, a 69-year-old woman from Germany, gave up using money 15 years ago and says she’s been much happier ever since.
Heidemarie’s incredible story began 22 years ago, when she, a middle-aged secondary school teacher emerging from a difficult marriage, took her two children and moved to the city of Dortmund, in Germany’s Ruhr area. One of the first things she noticed was the large number of homeless people, and this shocked her so much that she decided to actually do something about it. She had always believed the homeless didn’t need actual money to be accepted back into society, only a chance to empower themselves by making themselves useful, so she opened a Tauschring (swap shop), called “Gib und Nimm” (Give and Take).
Her small venture was a place where anyone could trade stuff and skills for other things and skills they needed, without a single coin or banknote changing hands. Old clothes could be traded in return for kitchen appliances, and car service rendered in return for plumbing services, and so on. The idea didn’t really attract many of Dortmund’s homeless, because, as some of them told her to her face, they didn’t feel an educated middle-class woman could relate to their situation. Instead, her small shop was assaulted by many of the city’s unemployed and retired folk eager to trade their skills and old stuff for something they needed. Heidemarie Schwermer’s Tauschring eventually became somewhat of a phenomenon in Dortmund and even prompted its creator to ask herself some questions about the life she was living.