New film “Tiny: A Story About Living Small” raises two questions

Hear from a couple who put together a film titled “Tiny: A Story About Living Film” that aired this past weekend:

Smith: The Tiny House is about 124 sq ft. It has a living space with an 11-foot ceiling. There is a small galley kitchen, a small bathroom with a composting toilet and camping-style gravity fed shower and a sleeping loft. The main living space has an 11-foot ceiling, which helps the space to feel bigger than it actually is, with a small closet and two built-in bookshelves. There is also a built in desk and dining table that Merete made from scraps left over from our reclaimed hardwood flooring…

The whole concept of living tiny seems to fly in the face of the traditional American Dream of a big house with a big yard — how do you guys define the American Dream?

Mueller: One thing that we’ve learned from making our film about the Tiny House movement is that the American Dream is changing. The recent housing crisis and recession have made it harder for many people to attain the financial stability required for a big house in the suburbs and a car in the driveway, that old model of the American Dream. On top of that, we’ve found that many people in our generation are beginning to question and re-evaluate that old American Dream and are opting instead for lifestyles that are more flexible and less tied-down to one particular place. As a society, we’re in a place of transition. I think that many people — whether by necessity or by choice — are learning that quality of life isn’t necessarily tied to how big our houses are or how much stuff we own, but about the experiences we have and the quality of our relationships.

I think there is some truth to the last paragraph above – but I think it still raises some interesting questions:

1. Just how many people are willing to live in tiny houses versus smaller houses? It is one thing to downsize from 3,000 square feet to 1,500 feet. It is another to go to a couple of hundred square feet. At the end of the interview, they admit only one of the couple now lives in the tiny house. Tiny houses are stark contrasts to McMansions but how many people would actually live in them long-term?

2. More people today might be more transient, which could be good for people rethinking of the size of homes they need how much stuff they can accumulate. (There still could be an uptick in digital consumption and ownership – but it all fits in your laptop or smartphone moving forward). But, this isn’t necessarily good for forming quality relationships. If everyone is moving around more frequently to take advantage of cultural opportunities and jobs plus people are connecting more online, strong ties are hard to form and civic life suffers.

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