Money, design and
freedom to think of
things in themselves.


This is a proposal for us to rethink the concept of money, first as individuals, as a team, as a design team, as a community, and who knows, as an economic system.


Do we even know how often we’re talking about money, especially when we aren’t? It plays such a big role in our lives, in so many aspects, and yet most of us tend to brush it away in every conversation.

This is one of our greatest challenges. To be able to share a clear perspective and overview, to have a shared agreement on our ways when dealing with money, when speaking of money, or building a set of commitments to define a direction, we need to tackle our deepest fears and frustrations at the same time we want to see money’s true form and state, in order to heal and make better decisions on everything we do.

We’re about to dive deeper into this topic for it’s such a big part of our life’s work, and I’m proposing we do it here, together. Feel free to observe, to share, or to let your thoughts and questions jump into the conversation.

Here follows some questions and a few pages of A room of one’s own*, for us to warm up:

  1. What was the most unraveling learning you had about money so far, and in what context/phase?
  2. What were the greatest things money did for you?
  3. What is your biggest worry involving money?
  4. How would you like to live with money?

👉 Please respond to each question considering all the proposed scales/lenses: individual, family, team, community, world.

* Virginia Woolf went everywhere in her A room of one’s own. In the following pages I’m sharing with you, she went in and out of scale and time, sharing a thorough portrait of money and one’s conditioning.

“No force in the world can take from me my five hundred pounds. Food, house and clothing are mine forever.”

It was while she was explaining how she got to that room of her own, how by having enough money  — a steady income without having to sweat for it, nor spend capacity on anything that would distract her from what she really wanted to do — she was able to transform her “fear and bitterness”, first into “pity and tolerance”, and later, into “freedom to think of things in themselves”.

“Freedom to think of things in themselves”. This is what I fight for everyday in everything I do, and it involves both design and money, everywhere I look — I thought. Those were the perfect words to describe a dearest precious treasure of mine. But how much does it cost? And how much does it cost not to invest on it?

A room of one's own cover illustration by John Alcorn

A room of one’s own, Virginia Woolf (1929), p.32/33
Free ebook: http://seas3.elte.hu/coursematerial/PikliNatalia/Virginia_Woolf_-_A_Room_of_Ones_Own.pdf
Categorie(s): Non-Fiction, Literary essay, Social science, Feminism & Feminist Theory
Source: http://gutenberg.org


“My aunt, Mary Beton, I must tell you, died by a fall from her horse when she was riding out to take the air in Bombay. The news of my legacy reached me one night about the same time that the act was passed that gave votes to women. A solicitor’s letter fell into the post-box and when I opened it I found that she had left me five hundred pounds a year forever. Of the two—the vote and the money—the money, I own, seemed infinitely the more important. Before that I had made my living by cadging odd jobs from newspapers, by reporting a donkey show here or a wedding there; I had earned a few pounds by addressing envelopes, reading to old ladies, making artificial flowers, teaching the alphabet to small children in a kindergarten.

Such were the chief occupations that were open to women before 1918. I need not, I am afraid, describe in any detail the hardness of the work, for you know perhaps women who have done it; nor the difficulty of living on the money when it was earned, for you may have tried. But what still remains with me as a worse infliction than either was the poison of fear and bitterness which those days bred in me. To begin with, always to be doing work that one did not wish to do, and to do it like a slave, flattering and fawning, not always necessarily perhaps, but it seemed necessary and the stakes were too great to run risks; and then the thought of that one gift which it was death to hide—a small one but dear to the possessor—perishing and with it my self, my soul,—all this became like a rust eating away the bloom of the spring, destroying the tree at its heart.

However, as I say, my aunt died; and whenever I change a ten shilling note a little of that rust and corrosion is rubbed off, fear and bitterness go. Indeed, I thought, slipping the silver into my purse, it is remarkable, remembering the bitterness of those days, what a change of temper a fixed income will bring about. No force in the world can take from me my five hundred pounds. Food, house and clothing are mine forever. Therefore not merely do effort and labour cease, but also hatred and bitterness. I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me. So imperceptibly I found myself adopting a new attitude towards the other half of the human race. It was absurd to blame any class or any sex, as a whole. Great bodies of people are never responsible for what they do. They are driven by instincts which are not within their control. They too, the patriarchs, the professors, had endless difficulties, terrible drawbacks to contend with. Their education had been in some ways as faulty as my own. It had bred in them defects as great. True, they had money and power, but only at the cost of harbouring in their breasts an eagle, a vulture, forever tearing the liver out and plucking at the lungs—the instinct for possession, the rage for acquisition which drives them to desire other people’s fields and goods perpetually; to make frontiers and flags; battleships and poison gas; to offer up their own lives and their children’s lives. Walk through the Admiralty Arch (I had reached that monument), or any other avenue given up to trophies and cannon, and reflect upon the kind of glory celebrated there. Or watch in the spring sunshine the stockbroker and the great barrister going indoors to make money and more money and more money when it is a fact that five hundred pounds a year will keep one alive in the sunshine. These are unpleasant instincts to harbour, I reflected. They are bred of the conditions of life; of the lack of civilization, I thought, looking at the statue of the Duke of Cambridge, and in particular at the feathers in his cocked hat, with a fixity that they have scarcely ever received before. And, as I realized these drawbacks, by degrees fear and bitterness modified themselves into pity and toleration; and then in a year or two, pity and toleration went, and the greatest release of all came, which is freedom to think of things in themselves. That building, for example, do I like it or not? Is that picture beautiful or not? Is that in my opinion a good book or a bad? Indeed my aunt’s legacy unveiled the sky to me, and substituted for the large and imposing figure of a gentleman, which Milton recommended for my perpetual adoration, a view of the open sky.”

10 responses to “Money, design and
freedom to think of
things in themselves.”

  1. @tita says:

    1. What was the most unraveling learning you had about money so far, and in what context/phase?

    Specially growing up money had this weight and importance that would spread to and influence everything and everyone but, that it doesn’t have to be that way. Money is a tool that we can choose how to use however we want. It can influence and limit us but we can have a say on how much we let it. Money is not the only way to achieve or get things and it changes as much as personal perspectives change our perception of things.

    2. What were the greatest things money did for you?


This question feels weird. Because money doesn’t do things for you. You do things with it. 
Trying to answer this I remembered that with the first biggest chunk of money I ever got I felt like a weight lifting off of me a bit, for having some pocket money, and then put a part of it to invest on a new computer. What an upgrade it was! Also, what a process to make the decision that felt the right one for me at the time. So, this makes me think, is money always a duality? Or is it just me? Or, doesn’t is change passing some threshold? 

    3. What is your biggest worry involving money?

    That it ever gets to a point where I loose perspective and it controls everything, how I act, how I think and how I perceive the world. That it ever becomes the biggest gauge in my life.
That not having it will ever affect access to basic needs ( food, housing, health care), for me or my family

    4. How would you like to live with money?


With awareness of its influence in people and with enough practice dealing with that it becomes more familiar, which for me means more practical.

    Having enough for me and my family (and when I say my family, you guys are included), to be able to be with them, to have a place to live, to take care of people when needed, to have experiences together comfortably.

  2. @andrea says:

    1 – What was the most unraveling learning you had about money so far, and in what context/phase?

    Maybe that money is less of an issue than it usually seems. Money “issues” are most of the times excuses to avoid dealing with what one has to. Directly related to decision making, I would say. In my experience, and this is a lot related with my parents, the money issue was used as a scapegoat to avoid further and deeper discussions. And later, I started to see it happening a little everywhere, at school, at work, amongst friends, etc, and identifying this general avoidance as a pattern in two forms: one using money as an excuse, and the other making up excuses to avoid mentioning it as an issue.
    It seems like no one really knows how to break it and understand it without facing the bogyeman, and that’s not only too scary, but also too messy and deeply emotional of a travel that no one asked to hop in.

    2 – What were the greatest things money did for you?

    A comfortable and always available family place where I can go to whenever I need and want without any added expenses, the education I wanted, the health care I need, and all types of leisure money could buy (travels, books, museums, art materials, stationary, restaurants, and whatever I would believe I needed).

    3 – What is your biggest worry involving money?

    Loosing my freedom to think of things in themselves, because of having to accept shitty jobs and/or the risk of getting hooked on earning money.
    Loosing important relationships because of not being able to break through its emotional cargo.

    4 – How would you like to live with money?

    If can’t find a way to live without it, at least with the version with all are familiar with, I would like to live a long healthy life keeping money emotions-free, as a tool, as it is, being able to put everything in perspective every time before a decision has to be made, avoiding those astray worries and fears getting in the way.
    Keep learning and reforming its concept.
    Having enough for me, my family and my team, to be comfortable, having always enough for food, health, place to live.

  3. @kako says:

    I wanted to answer to all the questions, but i’m having trouble with the first one, so here are the other 3.

    2 – What were the greatest things money did for you?
    Money gave me the freedom to figure out for myself the relationship i wanted to have with it. Having access to it from an semi-early age made me face many decisions on how to spend it, or even if i should spend it. It gave me the freedom to experiment, to test and to figure out how i can spend it, how i want to spend it and how i want to think about it. It gave me the freedom of letting go of it and focus on what is really important for me and, spoiler alert, it’s not money.

    3 – What is your biggest worry involving money?
    My biggest fear, or worry, is to get to a point where money would become my main focus and i would work with the sole porpuse of making money.

    4 – How would you like to live with money?
    For me money should only exist to give freedom of choice. Freedom to choose how you want to live, where you want to live, what you want to eat, where you want to go. This ficticious thing that we humans invented should be used to set us free, not imprision us. Thats how i want to live with money, how i’ve been living until now, freed from it’s schackles and not letting it dictate my life.

  4. @riikka says:

    What if our perspectives and needs towards money are very different, say for example in a family unit or in a team? Do we even know how/what they are and on what they are based on? How to start untangling that in front of everyone? How to progress in breaking in parts what kind of feelings and why, does speaking about money and dealing with money create?

    • @andrea says:

      I would say they are quite different, and that by not distinguishing them intentionally it adds on confusion towards the whole concept and then affects on how we feel, deal/react and affect others.

      But I also think that once you do the exercise of responding “to each question considering all the proposed scales/lenses: individual, family, team, community, world.”, and later identify the patterns, you’ll find out that the core perspective probably won’t change that much at the individual level (confusion included).

      Considering it makes me believe that it’s almost impossible to decide to live with money in a different way in each context and still work/invest in the same goals. And here’s when the organizational level (family, team, community) has a decisive role, maybe the most crucial one in order to have and promote a healthy and wealthy life in one’s community, I believe. People in an organization would need to understand and consider everyone’s needs, doubts, concerns, resources, goals, build tools/processes to make sure expectations are aligned, and that everyone is committing to the same proposals.

      The question now is: how do we want to live with money?

      Money needs an investment from us. What do you say about us all doing the full exercise and later have a session to discuss our findings and maybe start drafting our money commitments?

  5. @riikka says:

    I will also start with answering to the questions. Although my response is pretty similar to Pedro’s, I felt in this conversation it was important that I used my own voice and gave it in my own words.

    *1. What was the most unraveling learning you had about money so far, and in what context/phase?*
    On how little you can actually live and how much you are able to let go of things you once thought are necessary for daily life and how meaningless they actually turn out to be once you are without them.
    Also, though knowing and having paid attention to it for quite a long time is, how much money – having or not having it – affects on how we feel. It’s been an exploration to understand and learn to control this.

    *2. What were the greatest things money did for you?*
    In everyday life, it feels pretty good and stress-free, even empowering, when I can walk in to a supermarket or marketplace and not need to worry about the price of the food I want to buy for my family.
    Having at least a bit money on top of covering the basic needs, it feels nice to be able to make small trips together with the family. It usually doesn’t cost much more than the usual life at home, but sometimes the lack of money makes me feel like we can’t afford it. Though then into the mix jump time and capacity, as it’s not only money-related.

    *3. What is your biggest worry involving money?*
    That the lack of money would somehow affect the safety or well-being of my children.
    Or that something money related would affect my relationship with my family or close friends.

    *4. How would you like to live with money?*
    Had I not had this family, I’d probably be living in some utopian remote community where money doesn’t exist 😀
    But since that is neither the case nor my choice today, reaching unconditional basic income and finding more equity in how the money is shared would be a great start!
    Smaller and easier-to-reach steps are things like creating community where people exchange goods and services within and alongside this society and existing economy and finding ways of being partly self-sufficient, e.g. growing food.

  6. @pedro says:

    I’ll start by answering the questions.

    *1. What was the most unraveling learning you had about money so far, and in what context/phase?*

    It’s with how little money I ( actually the seven of us, myself, Riikka and the kids) are able to do with. You make a budget and a plan, and you know the thing about plans they almost always fail :), and then you think we’re broke, now how can we carry on? But we’ve done it so many times and every time we made it. We gave up things, we looked in different places.
    We’ve been in this situation several times in our life and was normally to do with making a big investment on an idea a way of living and I guess that was value enough to carry on.

    *2. What were the greatest things money did for you?*

    Money in itself hasn’t done anything for me. Now, the greatest things I did with it I would say: buy a bicycle, buy a surfboard, travel, buy books, cook for friends.

    *3. What is your biggest worry involving money?*

    Is the anxiety that it creates on people around me.

    *4. How would you like to live with money?*

    Utopically speaking with it stopping existing.
    Less utopian then would be reaching unconditional basic income + progressive equity.

    • @andrea says:

      What is progressive equity? Where does the concept come from? We’ve been talking a lot about equity, but I feel that we need still to go through its definition as a team.

      • @pedro says:

        Progressive equity is just my way of encapsulating a process. It means that there’s a path towards equity even when it feels impossible or is not clear how. For example I feel to be able to progress towards equity we need a certain level of “equality”. If we all had a basic income guaranteed we could more easily progress towards equity.

      • @pedro says:

        About us as a team defining it, I agree!
        I’m thinking a practical guide with if-this-than-that routes.

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