Living Well Without a Job and With (Almost) No Money

Looking to bypass the money economy? By adopting “possum living,” it is possible to get the good things in life without having to go to a boring, meaningless, frustrating job to get the money to buy them.

| May 10, 2010

Possum Living book

Not only does “Possum Living” tell you how to live without a job, the book offers plenty of guidance on practical matters, such as buying a home (cheap!), growing and canning food, killing and skinning rabbits, making moonshine, and much more.


The following is an excerpt from Possum Living: Living Well Without a Job and With (Almost) No Money by Dolly Freed (Tin House Books, 2010). Originally published in the late 1970s when Freed was 18 years old, Possum Living is part philosophical treatise, part down-to-earth how-to, and provides a no-nonsense approach on how to beat the system and be self-sufficient — right in suburbia. The new, updated edition includes fresh reflections, insights and life lessons from an older and wiser Dolly Freed. This excerpt is from Chapter 1, “We Quit the Rat Race,” and Chapter 4, “We Rassle With Our Consciences.” 

Do you remember the story of Diogenes, the ancient Athenian crackpot? He was the one who gave away all his possessions because “People don’t own possessions, their possessions own them.” He had a drinking cup, but when he saw a child scoop up water by hand, he threw the cup away. To beat the housing crunch, he set up an abandoned wine barrel in a public park and lived in that.

The central theme of Diogenes’ philosophy was that “The gods gave man an easy life, but man has complicated it by itching for luxuries.”

Apparently he lived up to his principles. But despite that handicap, he seems to have had the most interesting social life imaginable. He not only lived in the center of the “Big Apple” of his day (fifth-century B.C. Athens), he also had the esteem and company of many of the most respected, rich and influential citizens, including that of the most expensive prostitute in town.

When Alexander of Macedon, the future conqueror of the known world, was traveling through Greece, he honored Diogenes with a visit.

Alexander admired Diogenes’ ideas to the point of offering him any gift within his means. Diogenes, who was working on his tan at the time, asked as his gift that Alexander move aside a bit so as to shop shading him from the sun. This to the richest and most powerful man in the Western world.

12/24/2014 1:14:08 AM

As interesting on a philosophical level as this article is, and as much as I would love to believe things to be this simple, I noted that in the last 40 years or so, Dolly Freed became an aerospace engineer, got married, had kids and moved to Texas. Mixed feelings from reading the article because I would love to believe that this is achievable, but obviously they started out with money and resources that allowed her to live in such a way - if it was so gratifying, why seek out a career path? For someone who commented on the "falsity" surrounding other "possums", she certainly didn't stick with her philosophy for the long haul. Not much of a Diogenes here.

8/18/2014 6:21:50 AM

I am 26 and have been working only 1 year. I am from UK and have no job no money no place where to live (homeless) if any who want to join explorer(ME) All welcome. Meditation leassons free while we have quite place ^_^, must suirvive without food and water, You can learn how to become a human who no need food or drink, when you learn meditate u will get that. My phone 07417434923 Message me where are you, Do not call. Must have expirience to roll joint's and have no addictions on it. You will get 10pounds everyday for free ( Job seekers allowence ) will help to claim. must have backbag... morre info on the phone.

3/13/2013 11:35:49 PM

I love the term "possum living." I am approaching possum living and loving it more each day. Every time I size down, I get happier. I now have 14 acres in Texas almost paid for and 5 acres in New Mexico mountains almost paid for. Mostly a matter now of deciding where I plan to stay, I haven't quite completed a full year in the mountains to be sure I prefer the cold over the heat. Leaning toward cold at the moment. I agree about most of our bills, they are made up. Still, a requirement is to get an inexpensive place paid for... and some locales are much more difficult for owner builders than others.

carol stoltenburg
3/13/2013 7:46:12 PM

Ironic how they have a roof over their heads, a place to grow food and call a "home" all because the mother worked and paid for it with money. Unless you want to be homeless on the streets and eating at a soup kitchen each night, it's not possible to have your own little homestead without paying for it (unless you inherit it, I suppose). What about paying the taxes on the land? Does she mention that? I suppose at her age, she's happy to boast about being lazy, but being lazy is not a quality trait in a grown person, nor will her kids appreciate that someday. Of course, she seems really immature and selfish saying that they don't help out anybody else and only look out for themselves. There's absolutely nothing wrong with working the land or having a job you like and working hard and just living simply and non-materialistic. She makes it sound like we're all slaves and she's so free. She has no idea what freedom is.

geri modell
3/13/2013 3:59:41 PM

I read this book last year. It's a really fun read, but the most memorable part was the afterward, in which the author (who wrote the book at the amazing age of 19 or so) reflects back as a more "in-the-grid" adult. Really worthwhile, even if - like me - you haven't yet achieved full possum-hood.

ken atkins
11/17/2011 11:49:15 PM

A very enjoyable idea and one I am truly interested in [again] . Thank you for putting this article on line, i am inspired by it and want to get your updated version of the book and begin to investigate.. Thank you again, one who has longed to become a possum most of my life

connie kuramoto_1
1/22/2011 2:53:28 PM

The philisophical part is easy. How do you pay the rent/mortgage? If that was covered the rest is a piece of cake!!! I have to work to pay the mortgage, so I have to have a car, so I have to buy gas and insurance, so I have to have decent clothes to wear, so I am busy and tired at the end of the day and may not have time to always bake my own bread..etc...the only thing keeping me from this possum lifestyle is having to keep a roof over my head!!!

phil brzezinski
8/17/2010 12:30:59 PM

I think it could work for me if I lived in a country with decent health care coverage...I've been unemployed for over 2 years now and was thinking about this book (I first read it in high school) if only I had the money for a dirt cheap house (a friend of mine bought a formerly $170K house for $80K last year and got the $8K tax refund for it)

7/31/2010 12:19:28 PM

A very enjoyable read and many thought provoking words of wisdom! Deep down, I too wish to be a Possum; however, in America it is very difficult to live without some money since our entire economy revolves around money. Health insurance and real estate taxes are unavoidable, big expenses. I have several 'possum friends' in Germany who are able to comfortably survive on very little money and still have good, affordable health care for less than a few hundred dollars a month. German's pay no annual real estate tax, but have higher value-added taxes (VAT) based on what you purchase. This discourages consumption and encourages savings! It is easy for some readers to willingly shun health insurance until there is an emergency. My wife recently developed cancer; thus good health insurance is needed! Until America has a well functioning health-care and tax system, we will unfortunately have few possums!!!

david a
6/9/2010 1:27:26 PM

I was somewhat forced into a nearly possum lifestyle with the economic downturn. I love me small place in the country with what I can raise and grow. I agree that society places too much emphasis on money and material things. I do quite well and still help feed a friend or two besides myself -- simple and nutritiously.

5/24/2010 10:10:07 AM

Dadafone, While the book was originally published in 1978, it has since been reprinted. The excerpt above is from the 2010 edition of the book, which includes an afterword from Dolly discussing the lessons she's learned since she first wrote the book when she was 18. You can find her blog (and contact her) at the website for the book,

tony deckard
5/22/2010 12:02:50 PM

dadofone, You are quite mistaken. I have been living this life for years. Keep in mind this article is merely an excerpt from an entire book. It truly is impossible to live in this country without money. However, the amount required can be reduced far below what the culture insists is necessary. If a person wishes to live a life dependent upon someone else to grow their food, heat their home, make their clothes, etc, then that person builds a dangerous dependence on money. When a person decides to take personal responsibility for their "needs," the dependence on money can be drastically reduced. I have trouble convincing the IRS that a person really can live (and live well) on less than what SS pays. What needs to change is people's attitudes.

5/21/2010 7:57:53 PM

That MENews should have struck the personal spam of Marie Devine immediately and should not have allowed that comment and anyone who has clicked on the book sale info will see that the book was written decades ago and take it all with a grain of salt. The times they have a changed. You are not going to get away with this BS and will likely be thrown into debtor's prison somehow by buying into this line of cr*p. Not even a contact the author of this article on this web site that I can find, to ask any questions about how did that all work out for you anyhow?

marie devine_2
5/21/2010 3:51:16 PM

Since 1995 in September in Israel, I felt God called me out of employment. He provided all my needs. When I returned to the United States, my way was still provided and I share God's will that we "come out from among them." My Divine-Way website shows that we are going the wrong way and destroying our planet and bodies and gives some strategies to send to our leaders of religion and government. If we turned back to living off the land, it would quickly solve all our world problems including pollution to air, land, water and food making us diseased, energy crisis, war, immigration, reoccurring financial crises, inequality, and social welfare programs. We would get back to doing what we are supposed to instead of getting enslaved to employment to pay the government to do it.

teri kennedy
5/20/2010 9:22:14 PM

Oh - also... It seems like there are a good number of we "possum people" out there, with little work & little money. Wouldn't it be great if we were to all pitch in together? With my little bit o income & other people's little bit o income, we could surely keep any expenses under control, and truly enjoy the possum life. As I said already, I am and can continue to live out of my RV, but need a place to park it that doesn't take a large chunk of my SSI just to park it on a patch of sand & gravel in a trailer park... yuck. I can only barely afford internet service, but can't afford a phone. So - with the economy the way it is, and many of us on limited incomes, maybe one of you out there has enough land for some of us to "park it", pitch in with expenses and still have a few bucks left over to buy a beer now & then. Speaking for myself, my art-forms included everything from basket-making to painting to welded metal sculpture. I can't paint well anymore, but I can still do some light welding. I also know a bit about building chicken coops & rabbit hutches, raising them, and butchering them. In other words, I can pull my own weight, but don't have the resources to buy a place. Oh, I also miss sitting at a firepit at night. The more the merrier, right? Anyway, if you can figure a way to communicate that doesn't get your message auto-deleted, let's try to get a bunch of us like-minded Possum People together. Teri K. TCKennedy1-at-gmail-com

teri kennedy
5/20/2010 9:08:00 PM

I had the possum life thrust upon me, quite unwillingly. In May 2006 a so-called professional surgeon botched a simple surgery, & now I have no feeling in 3 fingers and about 1/2 of the palm of my right hand. Naturally, he got away with it because he could afford the best attorneys. Prior to the surgery I was a full time, self-employed professional artist. I was never rich or famous, but I kept my mortgage & other bills paid, even after my artist-husband's death (and no life insurance) in '99. So for the years since the surgery, I went through all my savings to try & keep the mortgage paid, but lost my home to foreclosure last Jan. just the same. Now I'm living in an '77 Dodge RV, and SSI barely covers my space rent, etc. What I really miss about my home is its location 10 miles outside town, with almost an acre next to a perennial creek. I was really getting into gardening & raising chickens & rabbits for food. Naturally when they foreclosed on me, all my critters were taken away to feed raptors at a wildlife rehab. Even though I was possum living since '06 I WAS working in my garden & raising critters. Now I don't even have that to look forward to every day. It's now been 5 months since I lost my home & I have to say that I don't enjoy being THIS much of a possum. I'd love to relocate if someone out there has a place outside of a town, would like the company of a friend, & has the space for me to plant veggies & raise chickens. Write me: TCKennedy1-at-gmail-com

5/19/2010 7:45:54 PM

Finally! Someone who understands that shoes don't have to be worn in summer (unless you are working) and nights don't have to be filled with the sound of HBO! BRAVO! For possums and true believers!

michael birch
5/14/2010 8:50:49 AM

I have been reading Mother Earth since 1977 and other self sustaining books and magizines.Bravo to this article.It has so much truth to it for those who came from an inviroment not far from this.It has been a life long dream of mine to live such a lifestile.And am simi working to that goal.Sometimes I get too lazy and don't anything done,but thats also life.WORKING TOWARD NOT WORRING ABOUT,BUT LOVEING LIFE! Michael

5/13/2010 1:58:27 PM

nice! i am impressed. this article and this lifestyle takes balls. i thought i had balls, now i know i have someone to live up to!

5/13/2010 10:02:36 AM

This was a good read! I am amazed though at all the comments from people worrying about health insurance. I guess the programing and propaganda has worked from the insurance companies. Lest you all forget there was a time when there was not health insurance just a community doctor and people lived to ripe old ages! Yes, we had issues with disease and sickness, but that was before we new about proper sanitation. I would even go out on limb and say people were healthier than they are today. We have so much dead food and people are dieing from starvation! Ask yourself what are you really working for? Who's peace of mind? Who are you really supporting? We are programed to believe we need this or that! Is it really necessary to pay for water? Does it not rain? The sun is free for all to use! Do we need to pay for electricity or have we just been sold a bill of goods? Once people realize the lie they are living they would want to be free to!!!!!!

sandra _1
5/12/2010 10:20:11 PM

Bravo! Well said. Kudos to a very, very intelligent, well-read person. We couldn't have said it better.

5/12/2010 7:01:07 PM

Another valid point that was not mentioned in this article: These two people are not working. This leaves two potential jobs available for others who want or need them. If others embraced this philosophy it could help the economy. Perhaps a family that currently lives on two incomes could get by on one? That leaves one job open for someone else.

carmen ortiz
5/12/2010 4:06:17 PM

I really enjoyed reading this article. I now have a name for what I do. I haven't work full time since 1999, part-time is streching it. Currently, I don't work unless you call selling some plants and soap at the farmer's market work. I did start SS at 62, it's not a lot but it cover my house, utilities, insurances (car and house) and some extras. I am lazy, except in the garden. It makes me angry that some 'intelligent' person like freedomlover always brings up paying for my health care. Buddy or budette you DO NOT pay for my health care. I've spent a few hundred dollars in the last eleven years, all paid from my savings, because I don't believe in the so-called medical system and I rarely get sick. If I do get really sick, I have no intention of taking poisons to extend my life. My daughter knows it and she agrees. I don't want health insurance just so I end up subsidizing people like you.

dawn pfahl
5/12/2010 3:21:25 PM

Who said anything about neighbors paying for my health care? And even if they did, is that somehow corrupting their freedom to choose, or asking more of them than is already asked? They can become possums just as easily, or take my offers of help in return for some cash now and then. Some of them I'm sure wouldn't mind one bit helping out a neighbor. It's the ones that get their britches in a bunch over "civilized" means of doing things that will complain (and they'll always complain about something, because that's their nature), and from those people I wouldn't beg a penny, let alone payment for a medical bill. Besides, I'll gladly share half this year's canned goods for a proper dental cleaning and re-filling of my cavities. For braces, maybe I'd offer assistant secretary work for a few years. I'm not above paying my own bills, if my care provider isn't above accepting alternative payments!

5/12/2010 1:35:28 PM

Lorna - That's not very compassionate of you to want to be free from slavery by enslaving your neighbors to work to pay for your "free" health care. It seems to me you should hope your neighbors could also free themselves rather than to be your slaves. Indeed, that flies in the face of your professed concern for liberty.

5/12/2010 12:42:03 PM

I love this idea, I have been preaching this for many years now. Alas I am currently a slave to a big business that does not care about me or the customers I have to constantly apologize to. My goal is to eventually have 20 acres or so to "retire" to. The idea of having a garden to tend and animals to care for touches something deep in my soul. Checked the library for this book and they do not have it, Perhaps a little to seditious for Colorado Springs.

5/12/2010 11:52:48 AM

To Kathryn: AMEN! If the US had a viable single-payer health care system I'm sure we would be amazed at the number of happy healthy Americans working at (or not working so hard at) jobs that they loved and living a life worth living. But when you have children and no health care you become a slave to some other person who can offer it to you. My husband and I want to work, but doing work we enjoy that allows us to spend time with our children. Right now it just isn't an option. Too bad I was born in America--Canada or Sweden or Finland or France or (you get it) might have made all the difference in the world. (To those pro-Americans: yes, we have it so much better than millions, if not billions, of people around the world, and I'm fortunate that I was born in America and not "there;" however, there are countries who value the life, liberty, happiness AND health of their citizens far more than the US does of its own.) Fingers crossed that meaningful change comes within the near future.

5/12/2010 11:27:31 AM

Husband and I are partially possum. Neither work, and neither really care to find a job. We accumulated enough in our earlier life to live off the income of assets EXCEPT for health insurance: even catastrophic is way out of reach. What do possums do for health care? For the most part I don't need doctors' expertise but accidents happen... And don't we all know of someone who does all the right things with regard to health but none-the-less succumbs to cancer or heart failure?. Do possums just have to go to the woods and die? Only I have a 9 and 16 year old. We used to live in England and this just wasn't an issue, but since moving here I find it a worry.

doug smith
5/12/2010 10:34:53 AM

Well it seems as though you are referring to the way we once used to live. If you go to Pennsylvania you will find a whole culture that refuses to live the "American" way. I for one do not live the possum life, but I do live on little and still enjoy some luxuries, this appeases everyone and promoted harmony in our family. It is not always easy as my spouse really wants this huge house and large lot (for status reasons I believe). For me I love living out of our travel trailer (1973 Argosy mostly rebuilt). Don't get me wrong I do enjoy our house, but I am not sure the true cost is really worth it. I do love my job and will most likely not stop working, but I am not enslaved to it and would be just as happy not working. I really could go on forever, but you guys are living the "old" way not the wrong way. I would be you even work harder that most folks that have jobs and you are probably a healthy weight too. Funny how when you live right you "live" right huh?

jack fisher_1
5/12/2010 10:18:04 AM

I realy enjoy the read. I am currently barely working. A job that I love so it's not really work. Looking forward to being a possum.

jack fisher_2
5/12/2010 10:17:38 AM

I realy enjoy the read. I am currently barely working. A job that I love so it's not really work. Looking forward to being a possum.

5/12/2010 9:21:55 AM

I'm 60 years old and I have just enough money to set up my possum heaven. I appreciate this pholosophy Sam

mother earth news fair


Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!