A Movie Review – Tiny: A Story About Living Small

I’ve been to the cinema again, and this time I want to tell you about a movie that’s not about waste, but about simply living and small spaces. Tiny: A Story About Living Small follows the story of Christopher Smith, a 30 year-old American who has a dream to build a tiny house and live in the wilderness. With limited funds and absolutely no building experience, but overflowing with passion and enthusiasm for achieving his dream, Christopher attempts to build his own tiny house on a trailer.

You can watch the movie trailer here:

Here’s the official synopsis from the Tiny Movie website, which also gives a quick explanation of what the Tiny house movement is all about, if you don’t already know:

“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.

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.”

I’ve read a bit about Tiny Houses, and I was keen to learn more. I found the movie, a mix of Christopher’s journey and interviews with other Tiny House dwellers, an interesting insight into the reasons people choose to live in such small spaces. I also found the movie quite motivational, and I left feeling quite inspired. I don’t know if I could ever live in a Tiny House, but it certainly reminded me that my ongoing journey to minimalise my possessions was waiting for me to revisit it!

Some of the people I went to the screening with felt the movie was lacking in depth. By focussing on two aspects – Christopher’s story of building a Tiny House and also the lives of others who choose to live in Tiny Houses – there wasn’t enough time to go deep into Christopher’s story, his plans and his dreams beyond the consturction project, nor to truly understand how Tiny House dwellers make living in a Tiny House work. The film finishes with Christopher towing his newly built tiny house to his patch of land in the wilderness. But questions remain about how this house can really be home. What about food? Water? Fuel for the heater? Work? Is he intending to live in this dwelling, or is it actually more like a campervan for holidays?

For me, this movie was a beautiful story, and I felt like I could really connect with the reasons behind the choices these people make. If you want to see an inspirational look into the lives of people who choose to live differently, then this film is for you. But if you want to know more about the practicalities of Tiny House living, of what happens once the choice to live this way are made, then the film will probably still leave you with a number of questions.

Have you seen this movie? What did you think? Do you have any thoughts on Tiny Houses, or the Tiny House movement? I’d love to hear from you so please leave a message in the comments!

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13 replies
  1. emmahume
    emmahume says:

    This film looks really awesome – currently watching the series “George Clarkes Amazing Spaces” which follows people making their own small builds from house boats to beach huts. It’s so fun to see what people can do even on limited budgets when they use reclaimed materials and do all the work themselves.

    • treadingmyownpath
      treadingmyownpath says:

      That sounds really interesting – I will have to look it up. Apparently there’s another doco on YouTube about Tiny Houses, so I’m going to hunt down some free wi-fi and give that a watch too. I love these Tiny Houses : ) It seems so…liberating!

  2. Lois Field
    Lois Field says:

    As you know I did see the movie and agree it won’t answer a lot of the questions some people will have about living in such small quarters. There is a new television series called Tiny House Nation, you can watch it free online too, in which the motivation behind their desire is delved into more deeply. Also the one episode I watched talked to the family after they had been living in their tiny home to see what they thought and how it affected their lives.

  3. ahhthesimplelife
    ahhthesimplelife says:

    Hello Lindsay, I’ve never been able to understand why anyone would want a home that’s any larger than it needs to be to accommodate the people living there and their activities. It just means waste – waste of materials, time (to maintain it), money, energy (both yours and electricity!). Most of the big new houses are not even attractive, no charm at all.

    Great post!

    Cheers, Carol at Ahh The Simple Life

    • treadingmyownpath
      treadingmyownpath says:

      I totally agree – but it’s interesting the difference between what people need and what people THINK they need. We have just moved from a small one-bed flat to a slightly bigger 2-bed flat and actually, I feel like it is too big! I think so many places are badly designed – that was the problem with the last place. We needed to move but not because we’d outgrown it – we wanted more light, less mould, less heating bills and the ability to fit more than 2 other people in the living space. Plus some outside space to try to grow things. And we like all these new features – but we don’t need so much space.

      I think the key is to design the space well. That’s why the Tiny Houses are so inspiring – they really think about design and practicality, and they are so innovative.

      I was doing a bit of research into Tiny Homes in Australia (it’s not a very big movement here) and I found a company that sell tiny homes – 60m2! Our old flat was 40m2, our 2-bed flat is 50m2 approx, and they are saying a Tiny Home is 60m2! That is not tiny. But compared to the 5 bed ,three bath 3 car garages, it is.

      Thanks Carol, glad you liked it! : )

  4. Hoarder Comes Clean
    Hoarder Comes Clean says:

    I hadn’t heard about this film – thanks for the information. Tiny Houses have been in the news here lately, pretty exciting I think. SCAD, the art school, has “SCAD pads” built to fit in parking spaces (!) and there’s a story about a teen girl here who built her own tiny house (I found a link, if you’re interested: http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/26/living/teen-builds-tiny-house-schools/

    Here’s more on SCAD pads: http://www.scadpad.com/tour-pads
    Do you have Ikea? Sam always likes to go into their demo small living spaces when we go there. They’re more like tiny-apartment examples.
    Sorry, more than you wanted to know, I’m sure… –Sandy

    • treadingmyownpath
      treadingmyownpath says:

      Not at all, I love your comments! I’ll check the links out, thanks for those. The Tiny House movement is in its infancy here, in fact I googled it and found a site for Tiny Homes where the houses are 60m2. That is not tiny at all! That is bigger than our flat, which is 2-bedroom!

      I don’t go to Ikea, I dont like their ethos (it’s cheap so chuck out your current stuff and buy more!) plus it’s very easy to leave with a colander or some coat hangers that you really don’t need! Best to stay away : )

      Rather bizarrely, right in the middle of Tiny there’s a blatant product placement for Ikea. It doesn’t fit at all, or make any sense, then at the end they reveal Ikea was a sponsor. Cheapens it a but I think!

      Anyway, it’s very well made so you should check it out. It will inspire you to keep going with your basement! : )

  5. KathrynH
    KathrynH says:

    Thanks for the review- I really want to see that film too. Kirsten Dirksen does some interesting youtube documentaries on small house living (sorry I don’t know how to paste the link). We are a family of five living in a small 2/3 cottage. We moved 13 years ago just the two of us and small baby and now there’s 2 adults and 3 kids. We’ve had to adapt. We partitioned the big bedroom into two for the kids and we now sleep in tiny bedrooms with v little storage space. So we can’t keep much, the girls can’t have huge toys and I’m constantly decluttering. But we manage and it’s quick to clean (and affordable). Incidentally when we tried to sell a couple of years ago the biggest feedback was lack of storage to which I would say: “don’t have so much stuff!”

    • treadingmyownpath
      treadingmyownpath says:

      I need to spend some time on YouTube watching all this stuff, I think! Sounds like you’ve got a great setup and you make it work – I definitely agree that less cleaning is a huge highlight of living smaller!

      I assume you weren’t selling because you wanted to move somewhere bigger – or were you? As your kids get older do you think you’ll move, or will you still be able to manage?

      Lack of storage?! Pfft! Too much storage is the problem – people store and store away when they should just have less instead!


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