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Film Review: Tiny – A Story About Living Small

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It seems like there's a split in the American mindset. On the one hand, homes have almost doubled in size since 1970 despite a decrease in family size. On the other, there’s a growing trend against conspicuous consumption and toward minimalism. The documentary Tiny: A Story About Living Small looks towards the latter perspective. The film is centered around Christopher Smith, a 29-year old who buys a plot of land in Colorado and with no construction experience, begins building a tiny home with the help of his girlfriend Merete Mueller (the couple also co-directed the film).

So what is a tiny home? Most involved in the tiny house movement define it as a home that's under 200 square feet. Additionally, many of the structures are built on trailers which is a two-fold purpose. First, it provides mobility. Secondly, it allows people living in locales with more restrictive zoning laws to bypass a minimum house size of around 600 square feet.

Smith expects the 124 square foot home to be built in about three months and we watch as the project evolves. Not only are there the expected construction headaches, but we also see his family's views on the tiny house and his changing relationship with Mueller.

What makes the documentary even more interesting is that the idea of the meaning of home is contemplated; for everyone, home, no matter what the size, has social, cultural and economic implications. For Christopher the endeavor represents the kind of life he wants to build. And for Americans home is deeply intertwined in the notion of the American Dream. However this dream seems to be shifting and the reasons for this kind of drastic downsizing are many. Throughout the film, others in the tiny house movement share a peek into their design-savvy homes and also discuss an array of reasons for their lifestyle, from the environmental to the economic. For some, it’s even a way to feel they’re beating the system. Jay Shafer, the founder of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company says, "The primary asset that comes with a small house is freedom. The world gets a lot bigger when you're living small because I can afford to do a lot more things now in terms of both cash and time.”

Photo by Tammy Strobel, licensed under Creative Commons.