Photo credit: OCMA.com
Elise Boulding, a sociologist and major contributor in the field of Conflict & Peace Studies, said: “The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.”
I don’t know about you, but for a long time, my greatest conflict in life was not having things. As kids, we probably all chased Mom around the store begging for a toy when we already had too many at home. That toybox was overflowing, but we “...needed it, Mom!”
And then we grew up. But did we learn anything? Or did the toys just get more complex and more expensive? Think about it: Who are you, really, if you don’t have the newest iPad? Who cares if you just got one six months ago? This one must be better. It’s newer. It’s shinier.
We can’t help it. We live in America. More is more.
In 2012, a documentary film called The Queen of Versailles by Lauren Greenfield hit Sundance Film Festival. The film follows the matriarch of the Westgate Resorts family, Jackie Siegel, as she presides over construction of her very own Versailles, the largest and most expensive single-family house in the United States. It cost $100 million to build and clocked in at 90,000 square feet. When asked why he wanted to build the house, Jackie’s husband, Billionaire David Siegel answered, “because I can.”
Having the newest [or the most] toys tells people we are valuable. We tie our personal identity to acquiring things and so we spend a lot of time being desperately unhappy – especially if it goes as far as to derail us from real happiness by instructing us to select college majors or careers we really dislike. All for money. Status. The illusion of someone else’s idea of happiness.
But what if we decided to change completely the way we look at what it means to be happy? What if happiness wasn’t tied to what you owned? What if we didn’t aspire to make millions of dollars so that we could buy palatial mansions and fill them with expensive baggage? What if, as a young person in college, you didn’t have to pay rent because you could save enough money to build a home that was paid in full and already completely yours?
Let’s go one step further. What if we could pour all of that money we save from excess mortgages into really fulfilling, experiential improvements to our lives like travel and education? OK, maybe you don’t particularly like traveling (Who are you?) But what if you could seriously invest in a savings account or a retirement fund?
Now we’re thinking “Tiny.”
If you haven’t yet heard about the “Tiny” documentary –a project that began three years ago with a people-powered Kickstarter and grew to garner acclaim at SXSW before eventually traveling the country– then the first thing I think you should know about it is that it’s a story about living small. More specifically, and as the filmmakers Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith like to say: It’s a story about home and how we find it.
“Tiny: A Story About Living Small,” tackles cinematically one couple’s decision to build a tiny home–that is, a home that is less than 400 square feet– and perhaps more significantly, the film attempts to start a conversation about consumerism and contentedness. This is a conversation that resonated particularly well with me, personally: A frugal, single, minimalist with a penchant for spontaneous adventures and an aversion to “stuff.”
That’s why late last year, representing College Beat TV and USU Program Council, I contacted the filmmakers for “Tiny” and invited them to come screen their film and speak to students at Cal State Long Beach about their experience building a tiny home, crowdsourcing the project, and producing a thoughtful documentary about the entire process. This Thursday, March 27, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Beach Auditorium, you’re invited to attend what I hope will be a thought-provoking, educational and inspiring experience that expands your idea of home. Maybe it’ll even help you find it.
And that’s kind of a big deal.