This woman has lived a year without money

In a small Australian town called Koonorigan just outside of Nimbin lives a woman called Jo Nemeth. She quit her job over a year ago. Closed her bank accounts and decided to live without money.

It was a huge lifestyle change with a simple message, what do we need, and what is our impact?

When I asked Jo her main reasons for drastically changing her life in order to live without money, two points stuck out.

"To find [out] just how much of all this stuff is really necessary to be happy"


"Waste reduction and reuse – [to] live off the rubbish and excess of others so I don't need to consume new resources"

Read next: Meet the inspiring people who live with almost no possessions

This idea of rejecting the consumerist capitalist sphere isn't new, but it is bold and it is the kind of mentality that could be fostered in a way to question the way we do things.

Heidemarie Schwermer the 69-year-old school teacher who quit her job, gave away her possessions and moved out of her apartment in 1996 and never looked back, put it eloquently when she said:

"Money distracts us from what is important."

We know that the idea that possessions make us happy has been sold to us by advertising agents, but I'm sure if you think back to the happiest moments of your life they're about experiences, the birth of your children, meeting the love of your life, not that time you bought a new skirt.

The similarities in experiences from Jo Nemeth and Heidemarie Schwermer both come down to the amazing feeling of connecting on a deeper level with the people around them.

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Jo said to me "I have been really amazed by the generosity of people around me; both friends and strangers".

That's not to say it's been completely without difficulties, Jo explains how in the first year of living such a low-impact life she often dealt with her inner critic, that part of herself that told her that she should be earning money, that her value and success was intrinsically linked to her financial successes and that by not earning money, she was somehow lazy.

This is unsurprising in a world with social understandings of 'The American dream', 'keeping up with the jones's' and the general pressure to live excessively to prove our worth.

But the reality is, it's not working.

More and more people are coming around to the understanding that our lifestyles are having major impacts on the earth, our throw away mentalities aren't sustainable and they're not making us happy.

Read next: Money buys happiness, up to a certain point, but is it happiness that we really need?

For Jo, this lifestyle is indefinite. She's finding living without money rewarding, and she is now free to connect with people. One of the things she said was rewarding about living without money was having the time to help others, give freely and make people's lives a little easier.

Even the sense of helping others that she may never come into contact with was a factor of her choice, she talked to me about how living without money has affected being able to access the things she needs.

A big part of her concern had to do with food miles and supply chains, where are our things coming from and who is benefiting or disadvantaging from our connivence and consumer culture.

"We can be naively irresponsible in our destruction and violence against others in far off places. I don't want to make the lives of other people and creatures worse so that mine can be better. When not using money I can see better where the things I'm consuming come from, who is affected, and what all the 'costs' are."

This deep connection to our things and people is something we can forget about during our daily grind of sleep, eat, work & repeat. And it's obvious that for Jo, people, experiences and connections are her focus.

She told me one of the biggest things she has learnt from the experience so far is that life is good and people are good, we don't need much to be happy and living with a greatly reduced impact can help you feel good about your choices, reliving the guilt of passing on to our children something we didn't take care of.

Talking with Jo definitely made me question what I really need, what really made me happy and how I could start to think more about how I want to feel than what I want to have.

Anyone can really put in the effort to stop and think before they buy, try this week not purchasing two things, you never know, you might start to like it.

Read next: Lessons learned from the longest study on happiness

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