a story about living small

Where Are We (and our house) Now? A TINY Update Two Years Later.

Christopher Merete Building Tiny House Colorado

 

It’s hard to believe that Christopher and I finished our Tiny House almost two years ago! There were so many moments during the building process when it seemed like the to do list would just keep unfolding and we’d be working on our sweet little Tiny forever…

But we did finish and that year-long process has become just one chapter out of so many in our lives, though one that impacted and shaped us in major ways.

One of the most frequently asked questions that we get at Q&As when we show the film is, “Are you living in the tiny house now?” Since we want the film to be a standalone story, depicting one moment in time (the way that sometimes it’s nice just to experience a painting without knowing the whole backstory of the artist’s life or how it was painted) we’ve hesitated to post too much online about our lives post-film, so as not to spoil the experience of seeing that story unfold on screen. But for those of you who have already seen the film or have been following us online for quite some time now, here’s an update on where we’ve been and where we are now, as of May 2014: 

house on land small

After completing the house in May 2012, we drove it up to the South Park Valley and parked it on the plot of land outside of Hartsel, Colorado that Christopher had bought one year before, the land that the house was designed and built for and which had set this whole project in motion to begin with. That’s the location where you see the house at the very end of the film.

Now that building the house was done, we headed straight into our next project: editing and completing the film. We packed up and moved out of the apartment we’d been living in throughout the construction process and spent the next few months traveling to film last interviews and capture the footage we needed to expand the documentary into feature length.

In August 2012 we went to New York City. If you’ve seen the film, you know that I was toying with the idea of moving to New York throughout that year of building and that helping Christopher to finish one of his big dreams (building the Tiny House) helped give me the confidence to pursue this dream of my own (moving to the Big Apple). It actually worked out perfectly, since our composer and sound designer were also both located in NYC. We found a consulting editor in the city and were able to tap into a really creative and talented community of documentary filmmakers. I found an apartment with a friend in Brooklyn at the end of August. Christopher went back and forth between New York, staying with me while we edited, and Colorado, where his work was still based. In March 2012 the film premiered at SXSW and we spent the next few months on the road again, traveling from film festival to film festival. Throughout this whole period of time the Tiny House was up on the land in Hartsel. We visited it whenever we could, for a few days or a week at a time, when we were back in Colorado for work and in between film festival travel. Though it had been finished for months we were still getting to know our little home and relishing the experience of actually seeing it completed.

mountainfilm small blog

In June 2013, almost one year after completing the house, the frenzy of film festivals began to wind down and we both began thinking about what would come next. I stayed in Brooklyn and Christopher decided to move back to Colorado. After showing off our Tiny House at a film festival in Telluride called Mountainfilm, we moved it back down to Boulder, Colorado, so that Christopher could live in it full-time. The land he’d purchased near Hartsel was stunning but was too remote to be used as anything more than a weekend getaway. When we’d first begun building we liked the idea of having a cabin to visit up in the mountains but after pouring so much of our energy, hearts, and money into building the house it seemed silly for it to be sitting up there empty so much of the time.

Christopher lived in the Tiny House full-time from June 2013 through March 2014 (minus the month of January, when we was in Los Angeles helping a friend with a film project). When asked whether it’s what he expected, he always laughs and says it was surprisingly easy to live in such a small space. The only big challenge was living without running water. Because the land in Hartsel didn’t have access to water, we didn’t build plumbing into the house and hauled water in. So he showered mostly at the gym (an excellent motivation to work out!) The house is still located in this spot, in a very generous friend’s backyard on a rise just east of Boulder, Colorado, with an incredible view of the Continental Divide. Though my life is mostly rooted in New York these days, I’ve been back to visit quite a few times and stayed in the house for a few weeks when Christopher was out of town this winter.

house boulder small blog

 

house with garden  boulder small blog

 

house front window view boulder small

Christopher decided to move to Los Angeles in April, in order to continue pursuing film work there. So as of now, May 2014, I live in NYC  and Christopher lives in LA and our Tiny House sits in between in Colorado, a home-base that we can always go back to, surrounded by a landscape that is dear to both of us—pretty close to what we’d originally imagined actually, even though life has taken us in unexpected directions. Though we both live in urban apartments at the moment, our experiences in the Tiny House community have taught us so much about the power of living simply and prioritizing meaningful experiences and relationships over stuff. Though neither of us owned much stuff to begin with, all of the traveling and moving over the past two years has certainly kept our possessions to a minimum! Here in the city, I love how the idea of living in a small space and externalizing the features of home is commonplace. On public transportation, in parks, in libraries and cafes I’m constantly encountering the community around me in unexpected ways.

We still have no idea what the future holds for each of us, and for the house that we built together. I know the Tiny House will continue to be a part of my life and I do plan to have a more full-time relationship with it at some point, when I’m ready to be back in Colorado. But right now I can only plan for the immediate future, focussing on my here and now in New York.

house driving

When telling this story, we’re often quick to point out the many people in the Tiny House community who have been living in their homes full-time for many years (many of whom are featured in our film), who are more stable examples of life in less that 200 square feet. Even though our own story is complex and still in flux, we do think it demonstrates the ethos of flexibility and freedom that Tiny Houses represent – the ability to “live life as an experiment” as Ann Holley, one of the subjects in our film, so articulately described.

 

19 Responses

  1. Dear Christopher and Merete,

    What an inspiring, moving,beautiful piece in the story of TINY. You demonstrate acutely what spontaneous thought and planned action can create, and also how profoundly you are each living your lives.

    I

    June 1, 2014 at 1:14 pm

  2. LaGeris

    Amazing! I fell in love with both of you and your lovely little house. Thanks for sharing your story with me. I pray you all live happily ever after.

    June 4, 2014 at 1:14 am

  3. Dan

    I liked your movie. I long for exiting the rat race. Financial independence holds more appeal at this point in life than trying to live up to others’ expectations of how we should live our lives.

    I envy the bond you both have created with your shared experience. I hope you continue to cherish and nuture your friendship.

    June 8, 2014 at 5:59 am

  4. tricia

    you two are amazing film makers. i love tiny houses, but i really loved your film! keep making movies even if it pulls you from your tiny colorado home. good luck!

    June 12, 2014 at 1:05 am

  5. Hi Chris & Merete,

    What a story! I just watched your film on NetFlix & am sitting here soaking it in. Thank you for sharing your journey. I can’t wait to share it with others.

    ~Emily

    June 13, 2014 at 12:26 am

  6. I don’t know if you remember us or not, but we are that random couple that met up with you guys for coffee in Boulder about 2 summers ago for my (now) husband’s birthday.

    Thanks for your honesty about the complexities involved in building a tiny house :) We are also experiencing many of those same interesting life changes as we continue to build our tiny house. Turns out we actually have to make a living doing SOMETHING, and sometimes that requires decisions that are… well, complicated :)

    Hope to catch up again someday with you guys!

    June 13, 2014 at 7:14 pm

  7. Bob

    Loved the film! You guys are truly inspirational.

    June 15, 2014 at 1:27 pm

  8. Julie

    Hello,
    Really enjoyed your film on building “Tiny”, I am always trying to weed out clutter! We can tend to accumulate too much junk in our homes. My dad grew up very poor and he is my inspiration to keep it simple. Watching your film gave me new charge to rid and recycle.
    Awesome testimony and dream accomplished even though life has pulled you in different directions. You will always have that bond.

    June 15, 2014 at 11:16 pm

  9. delightfool

    So love the idea of a tiny house. What are the chances of house sitting, while you are in NY & LA? Looking for an opportunity to experience whether I could live so small? Will have to move and looking at a tiny house as a chose.
    - kod

    June 18, 2014 at 11:07 pm

  10. Ang

    Great documentary! I have to say I’m a little bummed to hear you both have separated and living the big city after all that work on the tiny house! Are you renting it out at Airbnb at least to get Tiny some traffic? ;)

    June 19, 2014 at 5:37 am

  11. Bryan Chapman

    I LOVED this movie. I wish I had the courage to move into a tiny house. Again, I LOVED this movie!

    However, I’m sorry I read this article. It was crushing, in many ways.

    June 20, 2014 at 12:04 am

  12. stanley casadonte

    Thank you for making and sharing the movie.

    June 20, 2014 at 12:41 am

  13. John Backe

    Thank you for making this movie. It is inspiring, including your follow up notes describing your current projects in LA and NY.

    You both demonstrated the willingness to learn, grow and pass along your experiences.

    We liked how this film leaves everyone uplifted and forward-thinking about themselves, and the World around them.

    June 21, 2014 at 2:02 am

  14. Dale

    Just watched your film on Netflix. I am a General Building Contractor (retired) and a Building Inspector/Plans Examiner. I wanted so much to ‘help you’, however, there would be so much lost if someone did. Like Garth Brooks said in song, “I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance”, in other words you could have ‘cheated’ and found some professional help and built it quickly but you would have definitely ‘missed the dance’, or the experience. Bully for you for not missing the dance!!! Best to both of you in the future.
    Your Kindred Spirit
    Dale

    June 21, 2014 at 3:04 am

  15. Thank you for sharing your Tiny House project. Concious living, intentionality, choice, humility, gratitude are all ideas touched in your film. Thanks for the reminder.

    June 21, 2014 at 5:45 pm

  16. Heidi

    Thank you for such an inspiring movie! This very much appeals to me. We don’t plan on having children, and our dogs are tiny chihuahuas so it would work out great. You two seem perfect together, I hope it works out for you two even though you are in seperate places right now. God Bless! -Heidi

    June 22, 2014 at 4:20 am

  17. Jose Aguinaga

    One of the best documentaries I have ever seen. I love when I’m watching a film and I wishfully hope that it never ends. Such a great piece. Best of luck to Merete and Chris. —Jose

    June 23, 2014 at 9:25 am

  18. DJ

    Hello,

    Just watched your film on Netflix. I feel that you are both gifted story tellers and excellent film makers. It is inspiring to see other folks waking up to the idea of downsizing their possessions and up sizing their life!

    Kind regards,
    DJ

    June 24, 2014 at 7:57 am

  19. Beryl Schaefer

    So loved this tiny film with a huge message (and heart!) I will be showing it to my spouse and children as well as planning this for our ” final home” with all of the senior accoutrements needed! We have 2-3 friends that are artists/carpenters and a $350,000.00 house to sell and live debt free! We had dreamed of an Earthship near Taos NM but this is so much better. Looking forward to the research and living the dream… Thank you!!!

    June 27, 2014 at 3:17 am

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