After a Rocky Divorce, This Mom Had No Choice but to Build a House

Sometimes marriages simply don’t work, and divorce takes place. It may not be a fairy tale, but it is a chance to start over. For one mom, she knew that she would have to think outside of the box if she and her two children were going to survive. She did not make a lot of money and her divorce left her with nothing! She and her two sons needed their own space, but how could they afford to buy or even rent with her limited income?

Meet Charlotte Sapwell

Life had been tough for Charlotte Sapwell and her two sons. She had gone through a bitter divorce, which left her with very little money. However, she did gain custody of her two young sons, which is all she wanted.

Her family was very supportive of her during this time, but she did not want to burden them any more than she felt that she had. After a lot of thought, she knew what she needed to do if she was going to be independent again.

Where To Live

Neither Charlotte nor her ex-husband had much in the way of savings or high-paying jobs, which meant that he could not pay her very much in child support. But anyway even if he did, she is adamant that he wouldn’t have helped. She was essentially on her own when it came to financially caring for her family.

Her parents had let them live at their home because she could not afford to rent an apartment for her little family. All Charlotte had was debt, that she needed to pay off each month. Unfortunately, she was still having to pay off a lot of debt from her marriage. What was left of her income went to food for her boys, and any other necessities that they needed. Times were pretty tough.

IThe Divorce

Charlotte’s divorce really did turn her word upside down, in fact, she described it as leaving her “broken, vulnerable and miserable” and let’s admit it, no one deserves to feel like that.

There are women everywhere that go through a divorce such as this but for Charlotte, her main priority as the children and getting custody of them. She needed to raise her head high and do all she could do for those kids.

Feeling like a failure

Since her divorce, she has tried to guide her life by the quote, “Go for it. Whether it ends good or bad, it was an experience”. Although the divorce nearly crushed her, Charlotte couldn’t be against the whole thing, after all, her children were born in that marriage.

Charlotte used to express herself through writing but after her divorce, she felt muted. She admittedly struggled with “boys being jerks, moving back home, days where [she] felt like a failure, dealt becoming homeless everything – basically [her] everything”.

Doing her best

Speaking about her marriage she said, “I read an article about how some women feel like ‘single parents’ even tho they’re married. This kept me up because I USED to be one of them”. Gaining perspective on life after divorce is certainly hard, Charlotte once lived in her dream home, but her marriage was far from what she hoped it would be.

Opening up about the big change in her life she said, “Life changes, as long as you’re willing to accept that it does and be prepared to move on, get to know yourself, your own strength and life has the potential to get better with a positive attitude.” That’s when she knew she was going to do her best and build a new home for her and the boys.

Being Independent

Charlotte did not want to depend on her family forever. There were a few options open to her. She could apply for a bank loan, but with the debt she already had, it would mean even higher monthly payments. Her grandparents did have a bit of land on their property, which was not being used.

The main problem for Charlotte was money. She needed to come up with a detailed budget which would give her children a high quality of life while establishing her independence. Slowly, a plan began to form, and if she could get a bit of help from her parents, she could be both independent and financially stable.

A Tiny Home

As Charlotte was pondering what to do, she thought about some of the reality shows she had been watching. Tiny homes were great alternatives for people who wanted their own space, but who are also on a strict budget. Could this be the answer to her and her two boys?

It would cost a bit of money up front to build, but ultimately it would pay for itself as she would not have to make monthly rent payments. Now, all she needed was a location for it, and some money to get it built. She would need to find the capital for this investment from somewhere.

A Loan

Once Charlotte began to float the idea of a tiny home, her grandfather decided to step in. He knew what she was going through, and with a loan of $10,000, she would be able to build her tiny home. He also said that the home could be built on his property.

Charlotte was floored. Everything she needed to rebuild her life was now possible. She began to look at plans for tiny homes, and choose a design that would give everyone their own space. It was important to her that her boys felt at home, even if this was a small home. They would need a space for their clothes, beds, and toys.

Starting From Scratch

With only $10,000 to work with, Charlotte decided to teach herself how to build. She had taken a few classes in high school, but nothing had prepared her to construct her own home. It would be a steep learning curve, but with YouTube, free tutorials at hardware stores, and any books she could get her hands on, she believed she could teach herself what to do.

Slowly, but surely, Charlotte began to understand basic building designs, what materials she would need, and how to build a housing frame.

Space Management

Choosing the right design for a tiny home is no easy feat. Charlotte needed to look at layouts that would accommodate her and her two growing boys. They would eventually need more space, but if she chose the right design, then it could be tweaked as her sons grew.

After a lot of indecision, she settled on a design. Now, it was time to buy all of the building materials, and begin building their new home.


Charlotte needed to ask herself an important question, “Does it spark joy?” when it came to deciding what they would have in their new home. Famed organization expert, Marie Kondo asks all of her clients this question to determine what should remain in a home and what should be thrown out.

Charlotte would need to do this very seriously, as only the essentials would fit in this new space. The same would go for the children’s toys.

A Quick Learner

After reading up on various building methods, Charlotte began to pick it up as she went. Slowly, the frame of the house was built with the help of her grandfather. With the internet readily available, any issue that arose could be quickly solved with some online help.

At times it was hard building her own home. There was no professional help to be had, which meant Charlotte spent long hours working on her home, all alone.

Her Boys

As you might have guessed, Charlotte’s sons were very eager to help her with this project. They are both quite young, but they were able to help with painting and some minor work here and there.

She made sure to give them a ‘special’ task each day so that they felt like they were contributing to their new home. Seeing her boys helping with the building renewed her vigor to complete the tiny home, and give them the best life possible.

Getting Creative

This tiny home was going to be unique, Charlotte decided. She wanted each space to feel open, even if it was small. She began to design bunk beds for the boys. They would not be right on top of each other, but instead in a staggered design.

This would allow each of them to have some open space above their heads, instead of one of them feeling slightly boxed in. Charlotte was thrilled with how the entire project was coming along.

A Part-Time Plumber

Most building sites will have tradespeople from a wide variety of backgrounds. A plumber is needed to do all of the piping, and installations of toilets and showers. An electrician is needed to make sure the wiring is not faulty, and a carpenter is needed to create specialty items that will fit in small spaces.

Charlotte had to train herself to take on all of these roles. Slowly, but surely she became more and more confident in her abilities.

Three Rooms

As there would be three people living in the house, Charlotte felt it was necessary for there to be three distinct spaces. A bathroom was also included in the plan. This was a very special endeavor, and Charlotte was proud of all of her hard work.

She began to take photos of the process and post them to her Facebook. All of her friends and family were astounded by the process and had nothing but kind things to say.

A Multipurpose Room

All Charlotte prioritized was her sons during the building of this tiny home. For herself, she did not need a lot of room. That’s why she decided to make the kitchen, her bedroom as well. The boys would have space to grow.

As construction progressed, she found herself becoming tired of constantly having to teach herself. The whole process took her much longer, then if a professional had done it. At the end of the day, though, she constructed a home with her own bare hands.

A Shared Bedroom

Moving into a tiny home would be a sacrifice, but primarily for Charlotte. Her boys would have a shared bedroom, but as they were young, this was not unusual for them. They both enjoyed playing with each other and sharing each other’s toys.

Eventually, Charlotte began to run out of money. She turned to her friends and family to help her raise additional funds. She desperately needed their help to finish this project.

Almost Finished

Eventually, it was time for this small family to move into their tiny home. Charlotte only had a few finishing touches to do, and it was move-in ready. The boys were very excited to move into their new home.

They had been living with their grandpa during this time. It would be nice for them to be a small family unit once more. The move went smoothly, but the living situation itself quickly proved problematic.

Finishing The House

The beds were in place, as were the main necessities. The boys had access to the bathroom, and the kitchen, but the walls had not been plastered. Charlotte began to worry that she should have waited to move everyone into the home.

Her grandpa mentioned that the boys could continue living in his home, and this seemed like a good solution until everything was officially finished in the house. Her sons were sad it wasn’t quite finished, but they understood.

Taking Shape

Finally, after months of work, the tiny home was beginning to look habitable. Charlotte’s bedroom/kitchen was almost functional, and she began to install more furniture. Most of the furniture she made herself, as it had to fit the specifications of her home.

As soon as something went wrong in the house, she was able to fix it. This was because she spent so much time inside it. She knew it like the back of her hand.