Tiny | SXSW 2013

I’ve often been inspired to declutter my life and get rid of things I don’t use, but like most others, I always find a good excuse to hang on to something a little longer.   I’ve often read articles on Yahoo about people who go one step further and actually decide not only to declutter their lives, but also to give up their square footage for a “tiny house”, and although I think this would be a wonderful idea, I do like going into my walk in closet which is often bigger than some of these tiny houses.  Oh and if you weren’t aware a “Tiny” house is defined as a home less than approximately 200 feet and usually built on wheels to avoid some regulations

I was inspired then to watch the movie Tiny which is a documentary about home, and how we find it.  The film follows one couple’s attempt to build a “tiny house” from scratch, and profiles other families who have downsized their lives into homes smaller than the average parking space.

Through homes stripped down to their essentials, the film raises questions about good design, the nature of home, and the changing American Dream.

After a decade of travel, Christopher Smith approaches his 30th birthday and decides it’s time to plant some roots. He impulsively buys a 5-acre plot of land in hopes of fulfilling a lifelong dream of building a home in the mountains of Colorado. With the support of his girlfriend, Merete, he sets out to build a Tiny House from scratch despite having no construction experience.

From 1970 to 2010, the average size of a new house in America has almost doubled. Yet in recent years, many are redefining their American Dream to focus on flexibility, financial freedom, and quality of life over quantity of space. These self-proclaimed “Tiny Housers” live in homes smaller than the average parking space, often built on wheels to bypass building codes and zoning laws. TINY takes us inside six of these homes stripped to their essentials, exploring the owners’ stories and the design innovations that make them work.

When Christopher decides to build his own Tiny House, he dives into the tension between settling down and staying adrift, between preserving a parcel of land that he loves and developing it. Merete begins to ask her own questions about settling down, and both walk away with unexpected lessons about the meaning of home, the importance of place, and the personal impact of sticking with a project that became bigger than they’d ever imagined.

I really enjoyed the movie not just for the fact that it takes us through the process of how to build a tiny house but why people decide to go this route and also what home represents to different people.   The film also raised a lot of questions in my own mind about living off the grid (as these people often do, since the insurance and laws governing tiny houses are different to those which traditional homeowners abide by).  Despite the fact that I found Tiny to be a little preachy at times, I found this to be an entertaining and educational documentary that certainly made me question the way I choose to live.

TINY is a coming-of-age story for a generation that is more connected, yet less tied-down than ever, and for a society redefining its priorities in the face of a changing financial and environmental climate. More than anything, TINY invites its viewers to dream big and imagine living small.

Tiny is written, directed, produced and stars Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller.

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