Tiny – The Movie

Tiny Houses and their construction have been an obsession of mine for several years now.  The concept of maximizing the minimum has been a theme that I have returned to throughout my life.  I love creating and seeing how others create unique storage solutions as well as simultaneously striving for minimalism.

This world of tremendous excess, with a focus on more and bigger being synonymous with better, the overt commercialization and perversion of the American Dream as well as the glorification of busy has created a bubble that is bursting at the seams.   Personally I am having a visceral reaction that rejects this paradigm.  I want less stuff in my life and more meaning.  I don’t pretend to be unique, so I imagine that others feel this way as well.  Thanks to the internet, I know at least a few do.  Many of these people make up what is quickly becoming known as The Tiny House Movement.

In general these people live in homes that are under 300 square feet and some even under 90 square feet.  They are vibrant people who live deliberately with a tremendous sense of purpose and dedication to living within their means.

A couple of years ago, Rob and I decided that when we own our first house, we truly want to own it.  No banks, no mortgage, no real estate bubble.  We can’t think of a better way to truly own our house than to build it with our own hands.  We plan to build our very own Tiny House!

To those ends we have sold or gotten rid of the majority of our stuff and moved into our travel trailer for two distinct purposes. 1. To practice living tiny and immerse ourselves in what that means before we take the plunge, buy our land and build our house.  2. To save money so that we can shed the shackles of debt, buy our land and build our house without loans.

There are quite a few blogs and books dedicated to this topic.  I have done my research and learned who is who in the Tiny House World…. But I got really excited when I learned that there was a documentary called Tiny being made on the subject.  I wanted to see it immediately!  “Can I download it? Can I stream it?  Can I buy the DVD?”  No, I had to wait. It was still being made. (I found out about the film in the time between when their Kickstarter had ended and the editing was being done.)

I have some experience with Independent Film.  I know that these projects often are forgotten about and left unfinished. People run out of steam, and money and move on to other projects et cetera. Thinking that this could happen with this particular film, Tiny, made me tremendously sad.  I had to stop myself from constantly checking on their progress and ignore its existence for some time as not to “worry” about someone else’s project.  It was kind of ridiculous.

I am happy to report that Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith finished Tiny and I had the great fortune to find out that it was premiering right here in Austin at SXSW (when I discovered this information, I was as excited and hopeful as a six year old with the prospect of going to Disney World being dangled in front of them.) Even more fortunate, I was able to meet Merete and Christopher and they graciously gave me a pair of their filmmaker tickets!

I have met my fair share of celebrities and honestly I was more excited to meet these down to earth tiny house builders than any celebrity I have encountered with the obvious exception of Patrick Stewart, of course.  Clearly, I do not think like a blogger yet, because if I did, I would have taken a picture with Merete and Christopher.  Suffice to say that in the limited time I interacted with them I found that they are really sweet, humble and kind people who were very willing to interact and answer our burning questions, like, “What do you do with your grey water?”

The film, Tiny, is even more beautiful than I had imagined, both visually and in narrative content.  It is extremely inspiring and informative too, which I think is the point.  It is a timely and relevant film that asks questions that are important not just today but questions that have been and always will be important to humanity, like, “What is home? And how do we find it?”  Once you start to think about it, the answer is not as obvious as  it may seem.

I love that they were able to interview other Tiny House dwellers from around the country and get their insight too. This particular aspect of the film contributed greatly toward educating people not just about their own building process but about Tiny House culture in America today.  It is both diverse and growing!

This film also successfully answered one of my biggest questions, “can a couple with no prior building experience successfully build a home, a livable structure with four walls and a roof?”  The answer is yes, which is exciting, particularly the electricity bit…

Throughout Tiny there were several questions and themes that drew me in as a viewer, 1. would Christopher Smith finish this huge project that he started and what would it look like if/when he did?  2. How would Merete and Christopher’s different ideas, about what and where home is, play out?  Could/would they stay together?  3. What materials would they use?  Would they use any salvaged or reclaimed materials and if so where would they get them? 4. How would their sewer and plumbing work?

The Cinematography and use of the Western light of the Colorado sky is mesmerizing like a meditation.  The musical score sets the tone for the film perfectly somehow interweaving the sound with the color palette so that these two aspects become one.  The editing is great too.  The film is subtle, subdued and informative while simultaneously containing a fascinating narrative. It truly seems to represent the personalities and aesthetic of the filmmakers, which I very much liked.

To get a taste, check out the website and trailer for Tiny http://tiny-themovie.com/

The only disappointment I had was in learning that Christopher and Merete don’t actually live in the tiny house that they built as the subject of their documentary.  When I learned this, there was a moment where I felt as though Santa’s beard had been ripped off right in front of me.  I realize that this has more to do with my fantasies of Tiny House Living than their dwelling choices.  When I asked Christopher how much continuous time they have spent in the tiny house, he said, “just a few days”, though he says he does plan to live in it at some point.

Honestly I felt a little betrayed.  I had been looking up to them from afar and jealous because not only had they successfully bought their land and built the house but they made a documentary about the process as well.  I was already in love with every aspect of their project and I had formed an attachment to the idea that they lived in it.  Though we don’t have our land and we have not built our tiny house yet, we have been living the tiny lifestyle in our camper for six months now.  Do I need new heroes?

No. This actually made me realize that every Tiny House enthusiast has their own path, their own back story and their own plans for the future.  We may have some similar goals but we are all different and our processes and sequences of action in our “tiny” evolution are all different too.  There is no one way or right way to live the “tiny life” and the way we go about getting to our “tiny” destinations will look different every time.  In the Q and A that followed the showing of their film, Merete revealed that she has moved to New York to pursue writing.  I can only imagine that she is living the tiny life in a New York apartment.

I have such a deep respect and admiration for Christopher and Merete for building their tiny house and for making their stunningly beautiful documentary as well as submitting it to film festivals.  I am keenly aware that all of these tasks require a tremendous amount of time, effort and dedication.  Also their land is remote and their tiny house is completely off grid which is pretty hardcore.

I am so glad that we were able to see Tiny premiere at SXSW!  We have more knowledge and confidence now going into the building process of our own tiny house.  They have helped demystify the process for us a little bit and very likely many others. Christopher and Merete learned so much in the process of building and I am very much looking forward to learning those things as well.

Rob and I have been wanting to make a documentary for sometime now too.  Having the opportunity to meet Christopher and Merete and watch their documentary has inspired us to finally move forward with that!  Perhaps they could write another documentary about making a documentary to demystify that process for us too.

I will let you know more about that soon.  In the meantime definitely go see Tiny at a film festival near you.  I highly recommend it!!!  Demand wide-spread distribution and order a DVD when they become available!

Changing and Evolving

When I was in high school I always thought it was so strange that there were kids my age who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their life…  I have always placed the utmost importance on decision making, sometimes to the point that it paralyzes my process. I am constantly evaluating and reevaluating. I have had to continually grow and establish that which is important to me and actively bring it into my life.  I endeavor to cultivate skills, values, experiences and relationships that are meaningful. I also really like to help others.  I have found that I have a deep need to learn and try new things and eventually become bored if I don’t change things up every now and again.

This quote that I recently read from Mahatma Gandhi really speaks to me,

“Learn as if you were going to live forever. Live as if you were going to die tomorrow.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Maybe I thought it was strange that my peers already “knew” that they wanted to be a lawyer and a mom or some such things because my soul was reaching and searching for something radically different.  I didn’t know exactly what I wanted and found the prospect of deciding that sort of thing with such little life experience somewhat overwhelming. The one thing I have always known is that I want to lead a fully conscious, meaningful and purpose driven life.  It just hasn’t always been easy for me to determine what that purpose is.  I have never had a lack of goals, the problem is that I tend towards having an unreasonable number goals.

It has been four months now since we have moved into our tiny space, our 21ft. travel trailer.  We have approximately 162 square feet of living space.  So far we don’t mind a bit.  We had the heat on almost every day last month and our electric bill was only $60!

In this blog I am going to talk about how our lives have changed since going from an 1800 square foot house to an 162 square foot travel trailer.  I am going to talk about what our life is like now and how and why this is working for us.

I have to say that while there was some adjusting that had to be done, and still does, the vast majority of change that has taken place is positive. We even enjoy coming up with creative solutions to new situations in our tiny abode; whether they are storage related, heating and cooling related, moisture related or ant related….  We are figuring this out one step at a time and this would probably be a good topic for a future blog post.

I do think that we were absolutely mentally prepared to do this.  It is truly what we both wanted and we can finally see the reasons for our move really coming to fruition.  This would and could not work if we were not BOTH on board. We have goals and we are actively involved with them.  It is difficult to forget about your goals and how serious you are about them when you live in a small space.  Your daily life is a constant reminder of why you are there and what you plan to accomplish.  Sometimes Rob finds himself surprised by what a big deal this isn’t.  RV living suits us well.  Our fantasies about where we will live next never include a “Mansion” or “Large Single Family Home”, it is always about our next RV or the Tiny efficient house we plan to build with our own hands.

The Goals and Values we are committed to:

  • Save Money – to have an emergency fund, be debt free, taking care of our medical issues and concerns, travel more, spend more time with friends and family, buy land in cash and build a small home without a mortgage, dance more, play more music, continue learning and education.
  • Leave a smaller footprint by wasting less, buying less and embracing minimalism.
  • Establish a deeper connection with Each Other, God, Nature, the Universe and ultimately our Health and Quality of life by focusing on that which is truly important to us, our core beliefs and values.

(Notice that none of our values and goals includes having more stuff or material goods. I am not saying this as a bragging point.  I think most people have similar goals and values, but they get distracted by status items and mistakenly begin to believe they are important. Living the tiny lifestyle helps us stay focused on that which is most deeply important to us and helps us avoid both distraction and the distortion that the meaning of life lies in material goods and status symbols.)

The Lifestyle / What it is like?

  • We are finally saving money!  It took 4 months for this to actually happen.  The cost of moving in combination with several very large unexpected expenses such as Sunny the cat being hospitalized made it hard to notice our reduced costs initially.
  • We don’t spend money on stuff we don’t need because we have absolutely no place to put it.
  • Even though we are both working, living in an RV campground environment is  relaxing and when we go on walks there is a very vacation-like atmosphere. We all wave to each other.  It is very friendly.
  • While we do have a small shower in our camper, we typically go to a shower room at the RV park.  It is nice.  There are four separate bathroom/shower rooms, each has two shower heads, hot water and good water pressure.  They have key code entry and deadbolts. Walking to the shower rooms in our bathrobes with our shower caddy in hand very much reminds me of summer camp.  We like it.  Showering is more of a ritual now instead of a daily inconvenience.
  • We have both a propane heater that is standard with most RV’s today and a small electric space heater.  Either do a fine job heating our tiny space.
  • We cook with propane as well.  We have to go on a short rural drive every once in a while to get our propane tanks filled at Direct Propane.
  • Coin Laundry, it has its advantages and disadvantages

Change Breeds More Change:

  • Short hair – I cut my hair really short.  It is more manageable and less hair for the drain  and my comb…
  • Off of Facebook – I took a 2 month break from Facebook and have recently resumed with less interaction and spaced-out, zombie-like scrolling. This could probably be an entire blog in and of itself.
  • Cutting other expenses – We have pretty much stopped going out and we have given ourselves a weekly grocery budget.  It is fine by us for now.  We love eating out, but we know how to have a good time with our grill at home for much less money.  Baking and cooking new recipes is also a cheap form of entertainment. We are willing to give up some instant gratification in order to achieve our long term goals.
  • Reading about finance – A really great book to kick your butt into gear is, How to Manage your Money when you Don’t Have Any.  I highly recommend it!
  • For entertainment we play music, sing, dance, play with our cat, go to the gym, watch movies, documentaries and TV series at home (basic cable is free at the RV park). One of our favorite activities is walking around the RV park and looking at the new coaches, trailers and rigs that roll in for the weekend.  
  • Work – our work keeps us pretty busy and stimulated as well.  We work on a variety of projects.  In the future I will write a post about what we, “do”.  I am sure some people are wondering by now….

By all accounts, we live a very fun and full life in our tiny trailer.

My sister asked, “so are you driving each other crazy being in such a close space together all of the time.”  The answer is no.  Maybe we are just lucky, but this aspect is not hard for us.  And honestly when one of us is gone for more than a couple of hours, we start to miss each other. We enjoy being together, working together, traveling together and truly these are the things that bring us the most satisfaction in life.  Like any couple we argue and get our feelings hurt every now and again, but the good most definitely outweighs the bad.

The Tiny House Movement

Along the way, I have developed a few quirks and obsessions, aka passions.  Some of these are deeply rooted and can be traced back to my childhood.

I have always had an interest in architecture, design and different materials.  As a child this manifested itself in fort building, and the observation of regionally changing architecture while on family road trips.  My parents were very lovely and let me keep my forts erected for much longer than most would allow and even let me sleep in them. They have also reported to me that one of my first sentences ever, while en-route from Florida to the Midwest was an inquiry, “where did all of the condominiums go?”  I noticed!  Where did they go???

I have a very distinct memory of being toddler aged and driving through Indiana, just before you get to Chicago and seeing these old town houses built in rows and some of them even built into the side of the hills and being amazed by it.  It is so simple and so “heart of America” yet it blew my mind. Growing up on an island in Florida, I had never seen anything like that.  At that point, I remember my mom telling me that yes, indeed architecture and the way things are built, varies widely from place to place.  I remember making a mental note of that so that I could keep my eye out and observe what might come next.  I have been making these observations for about 30 years now with the same inquisitiveness.

While investigating RV’s and the RV lifestyle, something new popped up on my radar that piqued my interest in design and architecture again, in a new way: The Tiny House Movement. My interest has been piqued somewhat intensely and obsessively.

Design that turns me on:

*Maximum efficiency and good uses of space.

*Items and spaces that can multitask, like stairs that are also drawers etc.

*Conservation of money, environment and resources through the use of things like solar panels and rainwater collection.

*Nice outdoor spaces.

*Creative use of materials, especially recycled and natural materials like reclaimed wood, shipping containers and cob.

*Ability to be off the grid if necessary or desired.

What is the “Tiny House Movement” you say???  Or maybe you have already heard about it, it is quickly gaining popularity in this country and well, globally.

My personal definition: The Tiny House Movement is a reaction to the social, economic and environmental climate of modern society. It is a movement that favors design, economy and environment over square footage, wasteful spending and excess building.  It is is about being thoughtful, as well as socially and environmentally conscious.  It is about examining ones needs and wants and realizing that we really only “want” a lot of non necessities because we are marketed to heavily –  we are living in a hyper capitalist society that thrives on a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality.  Such an intense rat race has been imposed upon us that people are willing to risk their health, happiness and quality of life to acquire bigger THINGS and greater quantities of THINGS and consequently bigger houses to store all of their THINGS. To quote my late grandfather, J. Kenneth Baird, “they sure can think of a lot of shit for you to buy.”  Life as we know it has become very complicated and The Tiny House Movement is answering back with a call for some simplicty. It is about personal choice and figuring out what ones true values are.

Here’s what I value in life:

*Family

*Friends

*Travel

*Outdoor activities and nature

*Health

*Helping others

*Minimal environmental footprint

*Learning

Here is what I value in people:

*Compassion and Empathy

*Creativity

*Resourcefulness

*Adaptability

*Humor

*A desire to help others

*A desire to continue learning

As you can see the Tiny House Movement speaks to me because it is directly in-line with my values. And I am not the only one. See for yourself….

One of my favorite blogs to follow is, Tiny House Blog.  Kent Griswold is one of the pioneers in this movement. His blog is always offering new tiny houses to moon over.  Also, I have learned a lot on this site about the different types of tiny dwellings people are building, where they are building them and why.  For instance, I didn’t know what a Vardo was before reading this blog.  Also I learned about straw and hay bale construction, cob homes, container homes, and pallet houses.  Additionally I learned a bit about buying tiny house plans as well as building codes and laws.  One of my favorite sections on this particular blog is “Tiny House in a Landscape.”  The Tiny House Blog is really just the best virtual window into almost every aspect of tiny house culture.

Another really fabulous resource is The Tiny Life blog.  On this site you will find inspiration as well as great ideas about how to build multi-purposed furniture and space saving solutions to fit perfectly into your tiny house.  A couple of other informative and inspiring sites are Tiny House Talk and Tiny House Design.

Some of the pioneers and famous names in this movement who are currently offering tiny houses, building plans, workshops and books are Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, Dee Williams of Portland Alternative Dwellings, Derek Diedricsen of Relax Shacks, LLoyd Kahn of Shelter Publications and Jim Wilkins of Tiny Green Cabins.  I find them all fascinating and massively inspirational!

One of my most favorite sites is Tiny Texas Houses!  I absolutely love what they are doing with reclaimed and recycled materials.  The tiny homes that they are building are undeniably beautiful.  When I see their homes, construction, and philosophy, I truly see my heart and soul reflected.  Also, they are in Texas!  

A few other fun sites for browsing are, Cabin Porn, Tiny House Swoon, and Tiny House Listings.  I am sure there are others out there that I am missing, let me know if you know of any cool “tiny sites.”

If you still are not convinced that Tiny Houses are the coolest thing ever, the wave of the future and becoming super dooper popular, check this out: The Huffington Post, The New York Times, Bloomberg Business, Wall Street Journal, Dwell, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, PBS, NPR, NBC, CBS, CNN, even Oprah and USA Today are reporting on the movement!

If you can’t tell, I am ready to join this movement. I have Massive Tiny Dreams! I want to get my hands dirty and use power tools. Don’t worry, Rob is on board. I have been talking about this for about three years now, he is excited too. We want to buy some land and build our own Tiny House!  For the first time in our lives, the “responsible” thing to do also seems like fun.

Right now this project is just one important piece my varied number of Massive Tiny Dreams!  For now we shall practice the Tiny Lifestyle in the Apex.

Not all tiny houses are the same, they are actually really diverse.  Here is some inspiration.

House-Boat-2-Apartment-Therapy tiny1Tiny-3

Where would you build your tiny house? What materials would you use to build your tiny house?

Also check out Pinterest for some inspiration!