Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

For This Family Simplicity is the End, Not the Means

Carmella Rayone McCafferty lives (purportedly happily) in a 665 sq ft Wyoming cabin with her husband and three kids. We could stop there and have a remarkable story, but the style and philosophical integrity of the home and manner in which the family lives makes the whole thing all the more impressive.

Like many great stories, the McCafferty’s were spurred by crisis in 2008-2009. Back-to-back job losses and a tanked real estate market put the family in financial and existential peril. The situation, Carmella writes in her blog, forced the couple to ask themselves, “What was most important to us in this life, really? The well-paying job in a city we didn’t love? The large mortgage payment and other debt? The compound stress of trying to make ends meet when the jobs went away?”

They realized that a simple life, close to nature was the kind they wanted to live. They set about building this life in a small Wyoming town. Rather than doubling down on another home and mortgage, they decided to build a 665 sq ft cabin on rented land. Its low cost is allowing them to save up to buy their own plot of land where they can build a new home in cash. Of their newly created situation, Carmella writes, “For us, financial security was no longer linked to the size of the portfolio or the potential of real estate holdings; financial security now meant zero debt and a job well loved.”

It should be said that this is no ordinary cabin. Carmella is a talented interior designer and the space has been featured in Remodelista. Recently, that same blog published “Carmella’s 7-Step Plan to Clutter-Free Living”–a solid list that includes such suggestions as “Envision your essentials by packing for a two-week trip in a camper” and “Whenever new goods come in, give some old goods the boot.” You can also go straight to the source with Carmella’s blog Assortment, which includes pictures, tips and lifestyle posts.

The McCafferty’s situation is reminiscent of a post we wrote called “The New American Dream Home” about the Kawabatas, a family of four that shared a modest 1300 sq ft home in Garrison, NY. With no disrespect to the Kawabatas, Garrison is a pretty posh town and the family was planning on adding a large addition to their modest home. The McCafferty’s on the other hand live in Wyoming, the nation’s least populous state, where, we suspect, land is dirt cheap. And while they are planning on building a larger home, they don’t seem to bemoan their current situation. For them, simplicity is the end, not the means. We find them heartening. We think people like the McCafferty’s, who place this premium on simplicity, responsible use of resources and financial freedom, are creating a different–and far more realizable–dream than the one of ceaseless expansion and consumption.

  • Tessa Hill

    Wow! That is a beautiful home- Camilla is indeed very talented! I love the clock nook in the cabinet beside the master bed, for example. Lovely home! And good for them determining what was most important to their family and making it happen too. Inspirational.

    • Tessa Hill

      Carmella! Sorry! 🙂

  • carmellarayone

    Thanks for the great words, David! Yes, in parts of WY land is less, but where we are, not so much!

    • David Friedlander

      thanks for doing what you’re doing. i shouldn’t have presumed to know property values where you’re at (jackson?). in my neighborhood, a square foot of property runs around $1000, so everything seems cheap to me 😉

      • carmellarayone

        This is so true! It depends on what you’re used to. Thanks again

  • gblock

    that 500-700 sq ft is the sweet spot. I’m currently living in about 400ish sq ft (maybe less, I’m not sure to be honest, maybe a touch more) I’d like to have something in that 500-600 range just to be able to have a guest over (possibly stay over if needed) and not be crowded, all without having a crapton of room to fill with needless stuff.

  • Beautiful home and inspiring life. Especially with grown boys! I will keep this in mind as my boy grows and I feel like our space is getting small. Re-imagine and simplify. Thanks for sharing.

  • I love the coverage of families in small spaces. Thank you! The little private cubbies for the kiddos are wonderful. I wish there was a picture of the stairs or access to the those spaces. Looks like the kids are a bit older too – not babies and toddlers. I’d love to know what they think of their spaces.