A Single Mom Facing Homelessness Builds A DIY House For $10K

At the age of 27, Charlotte Sapwell and her two young boys were left with a huge dilemma. Where were they going to live? A sudden divorce after the birth of her second son had left her and the kids without a home.

With no ‘just in case’ funds set aside in case of emergencies, Charlotte had to get creative. After a lot of research and help from her grandfather, in five months, this single mom built a tiny three by six meter home from the ground up. Keep reading to learn about her incredible journey.

In Debt And Facing Homelessness

In Debt And Facing Homelessness
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

Australia native Charlotte Sapwell was a single mom with lots of debt and facing the reality that she, along with her two young sons, ages two and six, might become homeless. The option to buy a cheap home was there, but she would need to take out a loan and didn’t want to deal with the stress of paying it off.

Renting wouldn’t be manageable either because she was already in debt. She needed to get creative and think of a long-lasting housing solution for her children.

The Idea: A Tiny DIY House

The Idea: A Tiny DIY House
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

If renting and buying were off the table, there was only one way Charlotte could think of to provide shelter for her tiny family. A DIY house! The process wouldn’t be cheap, per se, but if she were smart and made cost-effective purchases, it would be less expensive than the other options.

Now that she had the idea, the next step was figuring out where to start construction, as she wasn’t exactly what one would call a “landowner.”

Her Grandpa Came To The Rescue

Her Grandpa Came To The Rescue
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

Charlotte’s grandpa gave her a piece of land to build her home. With the newly acquired plot of land and the funds she got from selling furniture that wouldn’t fit into the new home, she was well on her way to start building.

Funds she received from selling personal items all went to purchasing supplies. Buying items was done very frugally because she needed leftover money for food, essentials, and furniture that would fit inside the tiny home.

It Was Actually Her Grandpa’s Idea

It Was Actually Her Grandpa's Idea
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

Charlotte’s grandpa was the one who originally suggested the DIY project. But his idea took some convincing; his granddaughter thought he was crazy for even suggesting she build a house from the ground up. She had failed her freshman woodshop class, after all!

She decided to do some research on the idea, anyway. After reading about the process and what would go into the project, Charlotte realized that it was actually doable, not to mention her only option.

Charlotte Is Crafty

Charlotte Is Crafty
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

Although building a house is on a whole other level of ‘crafting,’ Charlotte wasn’t completely incapable. She enjoys other artsy activities such as sewing, photography, and things that involve craftsmanship.

But an entire house? She was going to have to go far beyond the normal definition of creativity for this project. There was one phrase that kept her going throughout the process, though. Something that people everywhere should keep in mind when designing their own homes.

Less Is More

Less Is More
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

Charlotte was quickly learning that less is indeed much more. With all of the selling, Charlotte had a total of $10,000 for construction materials and anything else she wanted for inside the home.

When all is said and done, that isn’t a whole lot. So, Charlotte had to get creative once again and figure out what the most cost-efficient way to decorate would be. Solution: flea markets, Ikea, and Kmart. Anything second-hand she just refurbished!

She Developed Many Skills

She Developed Many Skills
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

Building a DIY home is like going to multiple trade schools overnight. Charlotte was able to do all of the electrical work, plumbing, roofing, and framing. The best part is that she never made excuses when something difficult popped up; she figured it out.

She learned what she had to and did what needed to be done. She had two young boys to shelter, after all. But they weren’t going to have their mom do all of the work!

Two Little Helpers

Two Little Helpers
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

Although they’re very young, Charlotte’s two boys helped where they could — mainly working on small projects that didn’t require electric tools! Even so, the family of three virtually lived in a construction zone while the house was being built. They were waiting for essential things such as an operational bathroom and safe drinking water.

But all in all, Charlotte and her grandfather were building the house quickly. It was only going to take them five months to have the entire structure completed.

The Layout Was Just Right

The Layout Was Just Right
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

The layout wasn’t too big, and it wasn’t too small, it was just right (to subtly quote Goldie Locks). Charlotte’s home featured a combined living room, kitchen, and bedroom, with another bedroom and bathroom through two separate doors.

Altogether, it wasn’t more than three by six meters; Charlotte wouldn’t have it any other way. She told MailOnline that “The kids are right there all the time and we are so close. Yes, it means we have virtually zero privacy from each other, but I love it.”

She Gave Her Kids The Private Room

She Gave Her Kids The Private Room
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

It’s customary for the parent to have a larger room than their kids, but nothing about Charlotte’s situation was traditional. Instead of giving herself the private bedroom, she gave it to her two boys.

The mom has expressed her gratitude to her boys, saying they’ve always been there for her and that she believed they deserved their own room. They were even patient while she was constructing their home, knowing that she wouldn’t have as much time for them as normal.

The Main Living Space

The Main Living Space
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

The main living area is a combination of rooms. It includes Charlotte’s bedroom, the kitchen and dining area, as well as the living room. All of the furniture is the perfect size for the tiny home, fitting just so in their respective areas.

Charlotte has fully embraced the minimalist lifestyle! During an interview with MailOnline, Charlotte said, “I don’t know how long we will stay in this space, but I can’t imagine living anywhere else but a tiny home now.”

She Utilized Her Space

She Utilized Her Space
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

How Charlotte organized her kitchen goes to show that she is now a master at utilizing space. Instead of constructing cabinets, drawers, or a pantry of sorts, she opted to do an open shelving layout.

Even though now all of the dishes, glasses, and silverware are on display, it gives the room a more open feel. She made the right decision. Cabinets would have closed in the walls, making the tiny space feel even more cramped.

No Matter The Space, With Kids, There’s Always A Mess!

No Matter The Space, With Kids, There's Always A Mess!
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

Despite the size of the house, somehow, her two sons still manage to make a mess! The good news is that it is usually in their bedroom. It looks like there are definite benefits from living in a tiny house!

In an interview with MailOnline, Charlotte said, “I went from living in a massive home with my husband and kids to a tiny rented unit to this small space, and out of all the places I’ve lived this is my favorite.”

Getting Used To The New Space Didn’t Take Too Long

Getting Used To The New Space Didn't Take Too Long
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

A limited amount of space can be tricky to work with when you have two children, but Charlotte and her boys are making the most of their space. She’s never mentioned it, but it could be argued that Charlotte also gave the boys their own space in the hopes of making it a makeshift playroom.

Regardless, she and the boys are adjusting to the living space and loving how easy it is to maintain. They’re also showing others that it’s possible!

Supermom

Supermom
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

Going from having nowhere to sleep to building 99 percent of a home with the help of her ever-supportive grandpa in five months was no small feat. It took a lot of hard work and sacrifice — what if it didn’t work and the whole thing fell apart? She had no formal training.

Charlotte turned out to be supermom, building a home for her sons when their father walked out of the picture. Is there anything this woman can’t do?

Moving Forward

Moving Forward
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

After Charlotte built the tiny home for her family, she moved on to a new project. She was getting prepared to do the process all over again, but this time it was for her grandmother. Then, Charlotte hopes to build a company around tiny house construction and selling.

She told MailOnline, “I just want other females to know they are capable of anything. Anyone can build their future.” If Charlotte is looking to be an inspiration, she doesn’t have to search far!

A Rough Start

A Rough Start
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

At the start of her construction journey, Charlotte was, admittedly, at an embarrassing part of her life. Her husband had left her, she was struggling financially, and she had to figure out how to put a roof over two small boys’ heads.

Charlotte’s never been one to ask for help, especially when it comes to her kids. But homelessness is new territory, and if she hadn’t talked to her grandpa, who knows what would have happened.

A New Beginning

A New Beginning
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

Giving birth to her second son in 2014, the last thing Charlotte thought was going to happen was her husband leaving her five weeks later. She and her sons were kicked out of their home, making her vulnerable, confused, and with nowhere to go.

It took Charlotte two years to overcome her sadness and start to put her life back together, finding herself in the process. She successfully overcame everything that was thrown at her.

Other Single Moms And Her Kids Are Charlotte’s Inspiration

Other Single Moms And Her Kids Are Charlotte's Inspiration
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

As a single mom, Charlotte understands the struggles and sacrifices that need to be made to give her children a good life. For her, single moms are an inspiration because of what they go through in and day out. They’re real superheroes.

Those women and the faces of her two boys always reminds Charlotte why she does what she does. They motivate her to be a better mother and person.

The Tiny Home Craze

The Tiny Home Craze
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook
Charlotte Sapwell – In the house that Mum built/Facebook

While raising her kids, Charlotte plans on making a living in a tiny house a lifestyle, saying, “We will always live tiny now, I honestly wouldn’t live in a bigger house. My goal is to save enough for a piece of land and build another tiny house.”

After the incredible process Charlotte went through to build the home, we don’t doubt her boys are going to love a second one even more! Maybe they’ll be old enough to help design it when the time comes.