Thursday, 5 November 2009


One of the rifs running through this week has been a steady pleasing chattelpurge – continuing with the gradual sloughing-off of all the stuff, in preparation for moving house.

It’s been a more instinctual than considered process, that is until the arrival midweek of the new issue of Permaculture magazine, which I most heartily recommend – it never fails to challenge and inspire me, more than any sermon I ever heard.

In this one, there’s an article about Mark Boyle, founder of Freeconomy, who has made the bold decision to live without money. The only other person I have come across doing this is Peace Pilgrim. I’m interested in the idea, and after I read about Mark Boyle’s life and choices I spent a long time thinking about it.

After much thought it came to me that being a man, young and single factored heavily in the feasibility equation. Mark lives in his caravan and cycles to where he needs to be. But, suppose he had a wife… then a child… and the child had a medical condition needing attention… then his wife developed cancer… what then? Wouldn’t the child like to go to school or otherwise be in the company of other children? Wouldn’t the wife and child, if they weren’t well, need transport to a hospital, and to benefit from the medicines, equipment, training, buildings etc etc that had all cost money? What about his parents? I wonder where they live? Does he not visit them?

I guess living without money would shorten our lives and limit our possibilities. As I turned it over in my mind, I concluded it is a noble ideal, and a wonderful, transformative endeavour; life-changing I should imagine. A way of making one’s soul. But also isolating and frustrating.

It got me thinking about the Darvell Bruderhof in Sussex, who witness assertively to a life where all things are held in common and the phenomenon of private property vigorously denounced. But I wonder. Private property and holding all things in common may not be as sharply distinguishable as might first be thought. In a big family are the household items private or communal? If private, isn’t the Bruderhof just a family on a bigger scale – corporate private property then. I think they might demur if I tried to remove some of their not-private not-property from the premises. But maybe they wouldn’t.

Tony the Badger and I are moving to a house-share with three of my family members. At first it was instinctive to mentally divide up the territory – this is your room, this is mine, this part of the garden is yours, this is mine. Only gradually did it dawn that we all got less that way. The more we shared the more we would each/all have. The more we clutched at the less we ended up with. Like a big green field divided into tiny yards.

I feel more drawn to sharing, living with little, living with less, than to living without money. But no doubt Mark Boyle’s freeconomy is a challenge and an inspiration.

It’s important that in our chattelpurge we give things away more than sell them. The kind of simplicity that appeals to me is about freedom and generosity not scrimping and saving. It’s about living in the flow of grace. Life can get very mean if one is always focused on the cheapest, the bargains, haggling and cheese-paring. Simplicity as I see it is about flow, and trust. If we all buy less and share and give more, then although we wouldn't have a freeconomy we would be less driven, we would be able to let go of our sense of scarcity. People giving things away - nice things, not just stuff too used and broken to sell - would create a new vibe of optimism. Giving and receiving bring joy.

Then there's the pleasure of walking light. When my children were little, I remember watching a friend whose children were teenagers, walking along the street. She had nothing in her hands to carry, and I envied her. Everywhere I went I seemed to have groceries or a nappy-changing-bag or a child’s coat or something to carry. I wanted to walk down the street with nothing in my hands too.

To walk light like that means accepting inconvenience – you might go out with no umbrella and then it rains; you might go out without money and not be able to get the bus home when you were tired; you might remember you needed milk and bread and vegetables and not have brought a bag; you might go out empty-handed but stop at the library and have to carry books home. Or determinedly refuse to and then wish you had a reading book when you got into bed that night. It's a matter of choosing. Which means most to you?

One of the games this week has been to try to get through to Friday without grocery shopping – eating up all the odds and ends from the freezer and store cupboard ready for moving house. I never ate so many pulses in one week! We did it, though.

Giving things away is fun. Adventuring into simplicity is fun. But I notice I get frightened when I run out of money. How interesting. What does that mean?


Buzzfloyd said...

What's wrong with money? It's just a way of estimating value for the convenience of exchange.

For example, "Your house is worth 100 points. My house is worth 75 points. If I've sold my house for 75 points, I will need to get another 25 from somewhere else to give you an appropriate exchange for your house. You can then take your 100 points to buy a new house and perhaps other things."

Money is just a tool, a thing in our imaginations to help us keep tabs. The only problem is people's attitudes towards it not with the thing itself. Mark Boyle's experiment is, I think, about his attitudes and not about the inherent value of money (or lack thereof).

The Bible doesn't say, "money is the root of all evil." It's the love of money.

Pen Wilcock said...

Well, that's what I've always thought. But there's more to this than meets the eye. I haven't understood it properly, I am still at the stage of noticing and thinking. I think it might be in part to do with the standardisation of things through explicit value. So one hears the question asked 'How much is he worth?' meaning hiw much money has he - and wealth creates terrible fights and divisions: witness some families when somebody dies!!

Enough sane and wise people think moeny is a serious problem to have me intrigued. Looking forward to exploring with you as thoughts develop!

Sandra said...

My friend Ganeida sent me over. She was right, I like your blog!

Strange, this is the second blog I've read today on this topic. Consumerism snuck up on us I think. The way I have lived my life for the past couple of decades has allowed me to become less focused on having 'stuff'. But I have still spent a lot of money. Money has become much tighter, so I am suddenly focused on how I spend my money. This is not a bad thing, but I know I could not live without money. I can live without a new truck and a flat screen TV. And an iPod. I know why I become worried when money is scarce; I have a lot of animals depending on me to feed them.

I will ejoy reading your blog.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Sandra! Yes, having others depend on us changes the picture at once, doesn't it!