My brother Bert’s way to become (financially) independent

Bert look-alike when we were little.

For most of my adult life, I’ve bought into the idea that if you learn how to make enough income, you can become independent. You know, not having to do stuff you don’t like or with or for people you don’t like. Or when you don’t like.

How many of you buy the income-producing programs so you become independent of (don’t have to go to) that daily job?

But there’s another way to become independent: spend less so you have to earn less. That too, is freeing in a very different but wonderful way.

My brother Bert was an extreme example of spending less – to the point where he was totally independent of any social or financial obligations.

In the middle of a successful art career, he decided he’d had enough with the office politics. For years, he’d also had running battles with our Mother about what was important in life. She had insisted for example that he should be more like his super-achiever sis (me, sigh).

Once Bert came to the University of Michigan where I was studying at the time, so he could tell her he was at U of M too (like Kim). He didn’t tell her he’d taken a job there in the kitchen (as a dishwasher).

About 10 years later (some 20 years ago now) Bert had had enough with people trying to run his life. One day he decided to live with the fewest obligations possible: a homeless shelter. He wouldn’t need a job to pay for housing. There was no dress code. Best, the office politics he could not abide wouldn’t exist. Nor would he have to deal with his independent art clients, who haggled about work and prices beyond what he could stand.

He told me once he knew more about homeless shelters from New York to Florida than anyone else alive – he’d stayed in them for over 3,000 nights – almost ten years.

But a year later, the requirements for living in shelters changed: now there were hours and rules for coming and going. This didn’t sit well with Bert.

He didn’t want people telling him when to come and go, so he decided to live on the streets, literally.

He traveled, by bike, from Michigan to New York to Florida, staying with friends from time to time, but mostly sleeping outside. He’d been a landscaper and loved the earth and wanted to tend anything that grew from it. He learned to make bedrolls for all variations of weather.

He was, by his own account and everyone who knew him, independent. No one could tell him what to do. No one did. He lived the way he wanted – no obligations he did not want. And he was happy to forgo all the niceties us regular folk seek – because they took away his independence. He would not be enslaved. Or bossed.

I wrote a little obit here for him here last year…

Anyway, ask yourself: why do you go to work everyday? Isn’t it to pay the bills? For the niceties you want(ed)?

And now we are slaves, working to service the debt we traded for the sweets of life. Still seeking independence. Buying into anything that offers it. We give ever more money for expensive programs, spend more of our limited time here seeking online distractions. And for the most part we’re only enslaving ourselves more.

My brother Bert had a different way of becoming independent. He traded all the niceties he’d known – and he’d known plenty – for his independence.

Bert was extreme. But the Buddha too, had little more than his (fine) robe and some sandals. And 400 years later, Jesus didn’t have any more.

While I’m not as extreme (yet) as Bert or Jesus, I’ve realized there is a lot I can do without. Some of you know I am back in CA and live in Berkeley again. In this town, folks have a practice of putting useful things (that one doesn’t want anymore) right outside on the sidewalk. You attach a “FREE” sign. Within an hour, the stuff will be gone.

I have put stuff out each day…It’s always gone within 20 minutes. Bookcases, dressers, CD cases by the hundreds, lamps, teddies, books, just stuff. All useful to someone else.

Amazing feeling.

Less is more.

Might be a phase, but it feels good right now.

Your experience?

About the author

Kim Klaver


  • Hi Kim – this resonates so well with me!

    I was introduced to Catherine Ponder's work last year, and I've been studying with Pat Honiotes how to live the laws, to experience them, to bring them into my daily life.

    And understanding the Vacuum Law of Prosperity has lead to me, each day, looking at what I can remove from my life to make space for something I would prefer.

    Sometimes it is physical (I use FreeCycle to find local people who want what I no longer want) but sometimes it is a thought or belief.

    Recording it daily is anchoring the practice, and I am getting clearer each day what it is I really want in my life.

    If anyone is interested in Pat's study groups (4-week teleclasses, $35 for the 4 weeks), the details are at

  • Having lost a sister 6 years ago my heart goes out to you, Kim. You wrote eloquently (as I would expect you to do) and from the heart. Thank you for sharing.

    Living with less. The Mennonites have been talking about that for years. Their cook book, "More-with-Less" was written not only to show how we can eat healthy with less but it was also used as a fund raiser to support those with less. A real win-win situation.

    In this day with so many rules and regulations (some good, some necessary, some over-kill) sharing stuff like you're example is oft times very difficult. There has to be a political (yes as in gov't) will to allow some of these things happen and often we don't see that.

    There was a time when Grocery stores would donate their 'day old' food (still good) to kitchens serving homeless, etc. But health regs now forbid it. People once visited garbage dumps to pick out the good stuff but safety regs now forbit it. Threat of law suits have stopped a lot of this.

    BUT where there is a will, there is a way and yes, we can learn a lot from your brother and others who live the simple life.

    Thank you again.

  • Years ago I heard someone say something I have never forgotten:

    "The less money you spend, the less you have to make."

    Another way to say it is live below your means.

    I have always believed that we should not work for money. Find what you love to do, and do that.

    Otherwise, you're just a wage slave.


    Eat Well. Live Well.

  • Less really is more…less stuff leaves more room for people, more to enjoy the things that give life true meaning thanks for this Kim.

  • Kim,

    Thank you for sharing about your brother, and about your experience in Berkeley. I just recently moved to Portland, Oregon from Denver, Colorado. In that process we shed literally four tons of stuff. It has been amazingly freeing. Getting by with less is a wonderful practice.

    The sidewalk "free pile" culture is alive and well here in Portland, too. We have contributed to our neighbors (assuming that only those walking by will see the free stuff on the sidewalk), and they have contributed to us.

    I was intentionally homeless for six months just prior to taking the vows of a Tibetan Buddhist monk. It was the free-est I have ever felt, and it was great training for my life as a monk.

    While becoming intentionally homeless is an extreme step for most of us, we can certainly practice freeing ourselves from unnecessary ties and things.



  • Beautiful post Kim.

    I quit working outside our home 9 years ago when our son was 2-years-old. Taking care of our baby became my number one purpose the day he was born but it took me (us) almost 2 years to see that we could do without stuff so I could stay home with our only child. My husband and I have never worked to pay for things we might want to buy. We work to have money in our saving account after paying the house payment etc. We do not buy things thinking that we will get a raise and can afford it next year.

    We recently bought a house and moved. We only looked at homes in family friendly areas that were within our budget. Our goal was for me to still work from home, be in a nice safe neighborhood, good schools and a dog friendly area.

    Before and after the move we had clothes, toys, furniture, books, and misc pet supplies to give away. We donated some and put some out on the driveway with free signs.

    Giving things away means the clutter is gone in my closets and I see our home much neater and organized. It's amazing what we can do without. Now before I buy "stuff" I ask myself if I need it or will use it this week. If I'm not going to use it or need it now I don't buy it and I don't miss it.

    I have spent a lot of money on training aids for my business. Some has been well worth it some not so much. I treat the training materials the same as other other stuff. I ask myself if I will use it within a week or two. IF not I don't buy it.

    Less is more and getting rid of the stuff by giving to people that really need it or want it is the icing on the cake.

    Thanks for the very touching post Kim,


  • Dear Kim,

    Thanks for sharing this story about your brother's lifestyle. He sounded like an awesome guy as far as I'm concerned. And so was the grounds keeper at the cememtery who let him sleep there at your dad's grave.

    I have been giving away things systematically for the past few years using Freecycle. Mostly books and music, some clothes and other odds and ends. Almost always find a taker for even the stuff I think no one will want, lol! I like to post there first when we need something, too. A couple of weeks ago we got a wood stove.

    I have a great appreciation and admiration for those who dare to live outside of society's bounds. His is indeed an extreme story that I cannot imagine emulating. But I also cannot say that I have never been tempted to say NO MORE! and disappear…

    My dream lifestyle involves having a homestead where we grow as much of our own foods as possible. Have chickens and a cow…and a solar powered hay house! If you've never heard of those check this out:
    You can insulate an existing hosue this way, or build one using hay bales.

    And if you think city dwellers can't have a homestead, lookie here:

    Less is more, because the "stuff" is just trappings for the ego. As we let those trappings go, we are freer to be our true selves. We are not our bodies, our minds or our thoughts. We are what lies just above all of that, and it cannot be accesses through things.

    Here's a mind-bender for ya: Nothing (no thing) is better than…everything.


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