Downsized? Why Not Become a Homeless Squatter?

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After a 26-year-old woman in London lost her job and her apartment, she decided to squat in abandoned buildings and live off of food, clothes, and household goods that’d been thrown away. The takeaway: Living on less than $2 a day isn’t so bad.

Katharine Hibbert tells of her freegan-like conversion story in the Guardian, which excerpted her book Free: Adventures on the Margins of a Wasteful Society. Here’s how she wound her way up the learning curve to fill her belly:

At first, finding food was time-consuming and unpleasant. I’d have to open several bags of real rubbish – coffee grounds, used dishcloths – before finding anything worth having. And although I always found unsoiled goods sooner or later I avoided looking up in case I caught the eye of passersby and saw contempt there.

Over time, I opened bags of bona fide rubbish far less often. I learned when cafes and shops threw out food and could adjust my foraging route according to what I fancied eating. I learned that bags containing food weigh more than those full of empty cups and boxes, and that the more upmarket the supermarket, the more they throw away. Soon I was coming home weighed down with butternut squash soup, salmon fishcakes or ready-to-roast chickens, as well as dried apricots, breakfast cereal, bread sticks or boiled sweets.

She also became something of a scavenging entrepreneur:

… it struck me: if I could feed, clothe and house myself from other people’s rubbish, perhaps I could also earn a few quid from it, too. I found a paper shredder, still in its box and sold it on Gumtree for £15. I found a television next, and got £30 for it. In one week I had converted rubbish into £45.

Her biggest problem? Boredom. Life on the squat was pretty easy, and she didn’t know what to do with all of her spare time—and with no money to entertain herself.