TINY: A Story About Living Small

This inspirational documentary follows Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller as they endeavor to build a 130-square foot home in the Colorado mountains. The film is a wonderful representation of the construction experience from the point of view of the dreamer and novice. As some of you may know, I am currently building a modified Cypress, so TINY hit close to home (quite literally) for me.  My heart reached out to the couple as they struggled and cheered when they overcame defeat. Last week I was even lucky enough to chat with Merete about her build - the good and the bad.

Photo Credit: Kevin Hoth

“We made so many mistakes.” Merete recalled with a chuckle. “We bought windows that we thought were vertical, and proceeded to design the house around them, only to learn six months later that they were actually horizontal windows!”

When I asked how her and Christopher coped with the mishaps, she responded with ease: “One of the great things about building it together is that we could be each others cheerleaders.” Merete says her and Christopher will never get rid of their tiny abode. The difficulty in the experience only strengthened their connection to the home. “It's almost like having a child - a really large child,” Merete joked. 

Photo credit: Merete Mueller

TINY is also a wonderful visual documentation of the growing tiny house community. With Christopher and Merete’s build serving as the backbone, the film periodically cuts away to tour small shelters all across the country or to interview several builders and families who have chosen to downsize. Even a few tiny house legends make an appearance to share their stories. 

“Christopher and I were originally introduced to tiny houses from a magazine article about Dee Williams. It was really cool to meet her in person. When we interviewed her for the film, we were in the middle of our build, and she acknowledged that and encouraged us to keep going.” Dee is now currently on tour for her new book: The Big Tiny.

Merete also remembers getting a lot of blank stares three years ago when her and Christopher began construction,“We all hear the word "home" but we don't always know what that is, or how to get there. Tiny houses, for me, served as a lens on how to explore the question: What really makes a house a home?“ 

 

Photo credit: Merete Mueller

After watching the film and chatting with Merete, I certainly feel inspired to continue my build. I want to laugh at my mistakes one day. I want to feel that pride and exhaustion when my home is finally complete. And most of all, I want to answer the question that Merete and Christopher have posed: What is home? And, if you’re reading this, I bet you do too!

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FILM UPDATES:

Download the full film on iTunes here.

Own it on DVD  *with special features including: full length 12 minute interview with Dee Williams, extra build footage, and interviews with building code enforcers.

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Jenna Spesard is a writer by trade. She is currently building a Tumbleweed Cypress with her partner, Guillaume, who is a professional photographer and Tumbleweed Workshop Host. After the build is complete, they plan to travel around North America in their tiny house blogging and photographing their adventure. More on their tiny house and giant journey here

Written by Jenna Spesard — June 05, 2014

Filed under: Build it yourself   Dee Williams   movie   See a Tiny House   small house   Tiny homes   Tiny house movie   video  

Composting Toilets - DIY Bucket

 

As a newbie tiny house builder - currently building a Tumbleweed Cypress - I eventually found myself stuck at the crossroads, looking down two narrow paths and forced to make the “big decision”: compost or flush?

First I plugged into cyberspace and watched a variety of informational videos on human waste (yep, that's my life now). I learned that by choosing a composting toilet, I would be picking the greener alternative while decreasing my utility costs and eliminating my need for a black water tank. All good things! So the choice was made - compost - but I feared that this decision was perhaps my gutsiest thus far in the build.

I turned left at the crossroads, onto Humanure Boulevard. It was then that I realized my decision wasn't complete; there are countless composting toilet options including manufactured and build-it-yourself units. 

Which head was to be my maiden throne? How do I take care of the waste? And, perhaps the most important question of all, will it stink? I needed an education in composting. 

Compost 101: my first homework assignment was to research the “build-it-yourself” compost toilet option. I had heard good things at the Tumbleweed Workshop from the presenter, Ella Jenkins. She’s a young, hip chick that built her own tiny house. If she can do it, well maybe I could too...

Photo courtesy of Ella Jenkins

Photo by Wolfgang Berger via https://flic.kr/p/asSFkE

Bucket & Sawdust “Do-It-Yourself” Unit

- $25 - $50 to construct using a 5 gallon bucket from any hardware store.

- Usage requires placing a scoop of sawdust or peat moss in the bottom of the bucket and in between each use. Empty as needed.

PROS: I could toss out my plunger! It’s small, simple, inexpensive, self-contained, and very manageable. No sewage. No water usage.

CONS: Unlike many manufactured compost toilets, this simple bucket unit would not include luxurious perks such as: 1) a ventilating fan, 2) a concealing screen (to block the sight of any.. unmentionables), and 3) a urine diverter.  I never thought that urine would play the role of “stench culprit” in this performance, but some believe that mixing the liquids and solids is the source of all-that-is-smelly in a compost toilet.

So, like any rational person without composting experience, I feared my tiny home would reek like a cattle pasture after a fresh rain... that is, until I found a few solutions to the dreaded liquid/solid conundrum. One is to have two toilets: one for liquids and one for solids. Another is to purchase a urine diverter from a manufacturer. 

But what about the other perks you get with a manufactured compost toilet? Watch out for my follow up post, as my education continues and I make a final decision! 

Compost toilet photo (open) by Wolfgang Berger 

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Jenna Spesard is a tiny house builder and writer by trade. She is currently building a Tumbleweed Cypress with her partner, Guillaume, who is a professional photographer and Tumbleweed Workshop Host. After the build is complete, they plan to travel around North America in their tiny house blogging and photographing their adventure. More on their tiny house and giant journey here

Written by Jenna Spesard — April 30, 2014

Filed under: Compost Toilet   Composting   Jenna Spesard   Tiny Bathroom   Tiny Home   Tiny Homes   Toilet  
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