Most of you reading this book will already have a place you call home, regardless of whether you own it outright, rent or have a mortgage. Unless you own it outright, then complete moneyless living will be an impossibility to you, for obvious reasons. Fear not, there is still much you can do to reduce your dependency on money.
For starters, I’d get rid of the TV set. I packed in television long before I even heard of the words climate chaos or peak oil. It wasn’t that I particularly cared about the Earth back in 2002, I can’t remember even considering it. I just found television a waste of my precious life. I was watching other people living instead of experiencing life for myself. Once the TV has been taken care of, there are some basics you can do to get yourself moving towards moneylessness.
Instead of letting the bath water out, use it to water the plants or give it some other use. To conserve even more water, remember the phrase “if it is yellow, let it mellow, if it is brown, flush it down”; that is if you don’t have a compost toilet, which most of you won’t (yet!). There is no need to flush the toilet after every pee (we use on average 70 litres per day flushing,(130) multiply that by millions, and you see the impact). Turn off the lights when you leave the room. Better still, have a ‘Power-off weekend’(131) or a ‘Slow Sunday’,(132) invite your friends around for a game of cards or chess (only for matchsticks, remember) and get some musicians playing acoustic tunes. Winter was once a time of the year when we slowed down, partially because we had to as we hadn’t enough light to work. Now we can effectively have light all year round, so we never get to hibernate with larders full of preserves. Powering down connects us with the seasons.
Instead of using the grinder, use a pestle and mortar. Instead of the electric blender, make yourself a bicycle powered smoothie maker.(133) The list of ways in which you can save energy in the house is almost endless, and there is a plethora of books that concentrate on that subject. The key to this is simply questioning everything you currently do around the house that uses energy, as it is this that has the biggest cost, both financially and ecologically. Everything has a moneyless solution – the fun is in coming up with your own, and these will be tailored to your unique needs.
In terms of your house’s internal infrastructure, I’ll be looking at elements of that in other areas of the book – furniture earlier in this chapter, showers and baths in chapter nine, heating in chapter eleven, and toilets at the end of this chapter.
If you are looking to redesign your life and eventually go completely moneyless, you may want to explore possibilities for finding or building a house than can allow you to do so. In the previous chapter, I looked at some of the ways of getting access to land. In a number of these cases, there will only be an option to utilise the land for growing plants, as planning permission may be a non-starter. Yet with some of the other transitional land strategies I’ve described, there will be potential for building a low impact dwelling or renovating an existing dwelling, ideally in a way that needs both a minimum of external inputs and zero or little money. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in this position, you may decide to go for either of the bureaucratic approaches I described in chapter four – applying for permission before building, or looking for retrospective permission after you’ve been caught being a naughty little boy or girl.
In terms of moneyless living, the ideal is obviously to build a house that is free in its construction, maintenance, and energy usage. Despite popular misunderstanding, it is still possible to build a house without money (it was standard once upon a time, when we were guided by different stories). All you need is materials and voluntary labour. As Irish artist Frank Buckley proved, one of these materials could be money. As part of an artwork he was creating called ‘Expressions of Recession’, he built a house made out of 50,000 bricks he made from $1.82 billion worth of decommissioned and shredded Euros that the Irish mint gave him. Frank remarked that “he wanted to make something out of nothing,” and that “whatever you say about the Euro, it’s a great insulator.” This, to the best of my knowledge, has been the only time money has actually been useful for its own physical qualities and not the stories and beliefs we attach to it.
Even if your house does cost you a little, it will still be a fraction of the initial cost of a normal house, and it will allow you to remain bill-free and off-grid for life. As I mentioned earlier, it’ll also mean that you probably won’t need the mortgage that would have otherwise forced you into the wage economy, and all the personal consequences of that. This will be a big step up in your own POP model towards moneyless living. I got the dwelling I lived in when I lived moneylessly from Freecycle. Admittedly, it was a caravan, not a semi-detached four bedroom house in the suburbs.
How much money you will need to construct your house will depend on how simple or complex it is, and how long you want the house to survive before you have to build another one. On one end of the spectrum you have what I call the bird’s nest – simple, fully localised and not requiring a single penny, but not matching current human expectations of comfort and certainly not meeting all building regulations (I’m sure bird’s nests don’t either). In practice, these are the types of homes we built when we had to build them from local materials – in the UK that meant stone, wood, cob, thatch and so on – a time when no one would threaten to flatten your house on the basis that the airflow was a bit less than the regulations stated.
On the other end of the spectrum you have ex-Manchester United and England footballer Gary Neville’s £6 million, 8,000ft2 future eco-home, which claims will be Bolton’s first zero carbon house. Despite the obvious extravagance, there is still lots of merit in aspects of Neville’s approach, and some lessons to learn from it like there is from everything. Not to mention how encouraging it is to see professional footballers start to take our imminent ecological crisis so seriously (unless, that is, you are a Liverpool fan). Use a POP model to see where in the spectrum you currently lie, and what you would eventually, and ideally, like to move up to within a realistic timeframe. The most important point is to then take proactive steps towards making it happen.
The simplicity to complexity ratio of your house will determine how moneylessly you can maintain it, as the more complex materials you use in its initial construction, the less likely you are to be able to find the repair materials locally or be able to make them yourself. By using waste materials, however, you could build and maintain a house with little or no money and still maintain a level of comfort that we soft, civilised Westerners have grown accustomed to.
There is an almost endless list of potential dwelling designs to choose from, using a range of different local and waste materials. I will only aim to outline the main genres of moneyless housing, briefly touching on the essence of each. The techniques involved in each one of these designs are entire books in themselves. If one of them piques your interest then I recommend reading more on them yourself (I have referenced some useful reading material on each of the designs below), before adding your own touch and your own style. No two homes should be the same, just as no two residents are.