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

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.

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