A Juxtaposition in Choosing a Home

VersaillesDocumentary: The Queen of Versailles (2012). This film offers a peek into to the lives of a billionaire family and their financial challenges in the wake of the economic crisis of 2008. With epic proportions of a Shakespearean tragedy, the film follows two unique characters, whose rags-to-riches success stories reveal the innate virtues and flaws of the American Dream.

The film begins with the family triumphantly constructing the largest privately-owned house in the United States, a 90,000 sq. ft. palace, a feat made possible by the real estate bubble and cheap money.

Over the next two years, their sprawling empire falters due to the economic crisis that devastated many Americans.  As the drama unfolds, significant changes in lifestyle and character ensue within the cross-cultural household of family members and their domestic staff.

Available for streaming at Netflix, YouTube, and iTunes

Documentary: We The Tiny House People (2012). As city populations increase and rents continue to escalate, a new trend of living in smaller spaces has emerged. From tiny houses to micro-apartments, thousands are downsizing.

This film nicely captures the energy behind the small house movement. Over the course of five years, Kirsten Dirksen, co-founder of faircompanies.com and a Huffington Post blogger, journeys into the lives and homes of people searching for simplicity, self-sufficiency, minimalism, and happiness by creating shelter in caves, converted garages, trailers, tool sheds, river boats and former pigeon coops.

Tiny HouseDirksen notes, “I still live in a relatively spacious 1,000 square foot apartment with my family of 4 (soon-to-be 5) and I’m not looking to downsize, but I can’t get enough of these tiny homes. I’m sure there’s something Thoreauvian in my attraction to the examined lives of those who inhabit them.”

Available for streaming at YouTube


Documentary: Tiny: A Story About Living Small (2013). In this film, Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller ask, “What is home?” After traveling for the better part of a decade of travel, approaching his 30th birthday, Christopher Smith plant roots. He buys a 5-acre plot of land in hopes of fulfilling a lifelong dream of building a home, having no construction experience, in the mountains of Colorado.

Tiny - A Story About Living SmallThis film follows the duo as they attempt to build a Tiny House from scratch with no building experience, and profiles other families who have downsized their lives into houses smaller than the average parking space.

Along the way, it is noted that from 1970 to 2010, the average size of a new house in America has almost doubled.

However, in recent years, many are redefining their American Dream to focus on flexibility, financial freedom, and quality of life over quantity of space. Through homes stripped down to their essentials, the film raises questions about sustainability, good design, and the changing American Dream.

Available for streaming at Netflix.

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. I have watched the “Queen of Versailles.” These are some people that started with way too much money that they didn’t know what to do with. My opinion is that it was extremely wasteful. You will see in the movie that they purchased several million dollars worth of merchandise for the house and they had it in storage. At this point in 2013 there is still no progress being made. What a waste of money. On the other hand I have also seen parts of the Tiny House. This is definitely one extreme to another. Although I agree that it may be a waste of money to build a palace, I think this is the other extreme where you can barely turn around in your space.

    • Great points, Karen. While I have no desire for a home much over 2,000 square feet, I definitely need more than ~ 100 square feet. I firmly believe individuals – and families – should strive for as little space as necessary to be comfortable, vice the grotesque excess displayed in the Queen of Versailles.

      • I love hearing stories of parents with three or four teens who live in tiny houses. They learn to live in the space, cooperating with each other to make it a positive experience. Very encouraging.

  2. I’m really looking forward to these two documentaries. I’m a big fan of the Tiny House movement and I truly believe it could be used to affect America’s current financial nightmare in a very positive way. Adding it to Netflix now!

    • Looking forward to getting your feedback once you have a had a chance to check them out. I liked the idea of recommending these two at the same time as it serves as a great opportunity to compare and contrast what people determine is necessary/desired with regards to housing.

  3. I absolutely love the tiny homes. The small house movement appeals to me. I read a recent article about a couple who retired and built their 800 square foot house themselves, for under $20,000. Now that is self-sufficiency. I look forward to watching this documentary.

    • I have been hearing and reading a lot about the small/tiny house movement lately. While a ~ 100 square foot home is a little too small for me, I appreciate the minimalism and focus on reducing your footprint and appreciating what is really important. Looking forward to getting your feedback once you have had a chance to check out the We The Tiny House People documentary. Thanks for stopping by, Kay.

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