Recently 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?Having 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.