TINY: A Story About Living Small- Movie Review

TINY- A Story About Living SmallRecently watched “TINY: A Story About Living Small” on Netflix.  Whoa!  The film/documentary was written, produced, and directed by its stars Christopher Smith and Merete Miller.  If you want a detailed factual synopsis of what it’s about, you can go to IMDB or check out the movie’s website.  Or, if you have Netflix, you can watch it there.  Or here.  In a nutshell, Christopher decides to build a 130 square foot house from scratch.  On a surface level, the documentary is about his journey to build the house with little money and no prior building experience.  But I’m more interested in why than how, and what it means, and in discussing some of the questions it brought to mind in my own life.

One of the major questions asked is what is “home”?  Christopher, like me, grew up in a military family, and moved several times growing up, such that no particular place or house or state felt like “home.”  For him, home is not so much geographic as it is a feeling: of comfort, peace, belonging, purpose.  What is “home”?  If you grew up in one place, and have family around, does “home” have the same feeling for you as it does for someone like Christopher or me?  Are we doomed to never feel connected, constantly drifting, or does home have nothing to do with place at all?

Another interesting aspect of the film was brief interviews with other people who live the “tiny house” lifestyle (there is a whole movement, with blogs and how-tos and pre-fabbed tiny homes for sale and everything).  One woman in particular.  She described having previously had a high-paying professional job in the finance/investment banking industry.  No doubt, it required advanced education and time and money.  But she said something that really struck me (I’m paraphrasing, but something to the effect of): “Time is the only non-renewable commodity.”  In other words, if you’re working all the time at a job you hate, then what’s the point?

Another guy in the movement talked about how he remembers growing up, and living in this nice neighborhood with big houses.  But the big houses were empty, with big empty rooms, because the parents were gone all the time working to pay for the big empty houses.  I think it was this same guy, or maybe a couple of people, who talked about or questioned why we have houses.  These big pretty houses.  Is it a status symbol?  Do we genuinely need all this space?  Who are we trying to impress?  And why?  Do we identify or quantify our personal value, worth, or happiness with stuff?

Does anyone else feel stuck?  A slave to debt and loans?  A mortgage and taxes?  If you could eliminate your mortgage, maybe even property taxes, slash your utility bills, unload all the rooms and rooms and rooms of “stuff” that you don’t really even use or need, wouldn’t that be a game changer?  Fundamental change would be possible.

But is it really practical?  A truly viable option?  Especially for those of us with kids, how long could you actually survive in a space like this without going completely insane?tiny-house-home-designHaving recently been on a long-ish car trip with my family, I think the realistic answer is about 8 hours.  But for those 8 hours, man, it would be paradise.

But it’s still fun to think about.  I think any artist, or anyone with artistic ambitions, can fantasize about this, even if only briefly, even if only in fantasy.  Don’t we all of us, we aspiring “artists” (I use the term with extreme looseness, especially as applied to myself), sort of secretly long for this, a remote, cozy, intimate space, a room of our own, to ponder in solitude, think, create, escape, look out a window on contemplate possibility?  I know I do.

Am I literally and actively looking to go out and buy or build one of these, right now?  No.  But it made me think.  This would be a huge and monumental, life-altering change.  But there might be smaller changes to be made in this direction, small and happy steps between here and there.

2 thoughts on “TINY: A Story About Living Small- Movie Review

  1. I was recently visiting my sister and she brought up this same movie. She genuinely wants to live this way someday. Material possessions, clutter, “things” stress her out. Understandably, she has decided that it would be difficult with kids, so wants to do it when her kids are grown, with just her and her husband. We had a good discussion about it, but I hadn’t watched the documentary until today.

    Personally, I’m more on your side. I see the appeal. I think it would be awesome as a getaway. Maybe like a cabin in the mountains, a place of retreat, where there is simplicity and peace and you could visit for a day or two and forget about society’s race for bigger and better. I don’t see it as a place to live long term. I need people around me AND I need my space. I would never prefer to live in such close quarters with another person. If I lived alone, I would want space to invite people to my home. That being said, I admire those who are able to make changes like this in their life, hoping for a better life and concentrating more on things that really do matter.

    • But the thing is, you have to fully embrace the lifestyle. As a mere “getaway,” your tiny house would become just one more “thing.” An expense, an added cost, an added stress. It needs to take the place of your house, your mortgage. You need to give up the stuff inside, the yard, the house-related chores, all that hassle.

      I think embracing outdoor living would be essential. You’d have to live somewhere reasonably temperate, not too hot and not too cold, where you could spend much of every day comfortably outside. In a place with hot summers, or perhaps even worse exceptionally long, brutal winters, it seems like you would go bonkers sooner rather than later (for some reason I’m thinking of the cabin Walt holes up in when he’s on the run towards the very end of “Breaking Bad.” There’s loneliness, and then there’s walls closing in, abject solitude).

      With kids, it’s probably just completely implausible, no matter how good they or adventurous you are.

      As for your sister, like so many things, “oh, I’ll do it when I’m older” is fine as a theory, but what if that time never comes? Adventures are for the young. I bet once you’re old and retired and your kids are gone, the absolute last thing you’d want to do is live in a shack on wheels with no air conditioning.

      I don’t know if I need people around me or not. I used to adore long stretches of time completely alone: to read, to think, to write. Now, if my family is gone for even one night, loneliness grips me like a panic attack, and I cry myself to sleep. Kind of.

      I don’t need space, other than nature. Maybe I would park mine next to Walden Pond.

      I could live in such close quarters alone, of course. And with the right one other person. I don’t particularly enjoy inviting people to my home, and certainly not in large groups. I would never want more than a few close friends around at a time, no matter how big my house was. I guess we could always sit out front. I would have chairs out there. And hammocks would be an absolute must.

      I think if you have all your needs met AND have time to enjoy the things you have, then there is no need to change. But if that is not your reality, desperate measures may need to be taken.

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