Charlotte Sapwell's marriage was over, which left her and her two kids without a home. She now faced a mortgage she couldn't afford and homeless, which led to despair, but she decided to look for different options. But she never thought in a million years that she would end up feeling secure, happy, and with a life-changing new outlook.
Charlotte, who’s from Ballarat, Australia, had a normal home, and a normal life with her two kids and her husband. But when the 27-year-old's marriage fell apart, she was forced to face an unexpected outcome: homelessness. Of course, this was a prospect no mother would want her children to go through, so Charlotte brainstormed to find an alternative.
Charlotte and her kids moved to a rented apartment after the divorce, and the place was small and ill-equipped for the three of them. She considered getting a mortgage, but the numbers were beyond what she could afford: $400,000 AUD (approximately $300,000 USD). Such a loan was impossible. On the plus side, she didn't have to do this on her own.
Charlotte's grandfather didn't live too far and was willing to help her out. He was able to loan her some cash, but not enough to put a down payment on a mortgage. He also had a tiny house, so he couldn't take his granddaughter and her kids in. Then Charlotte got an idea shortly after she took a peek at the backyard in her grandfather's property.
The backyard of her grandfather's house could accommodate a tiny cabin. So, Charlotte came up with an idea: she was going to build herself a small home. But she failed woodworking class in the ninth grade and didn't know a lot about construction. However, she would move the world for her kids, and her grandfather, a handyman, could help. So pulling it off was just a matter of confidence.
Charlotte's grandfather loaned her $13,000 AUD (about $10,000 USD.). This was enough to help her start constructing a house of 10x20 ft or 3x6 meter-space. She also sold a lot of her personal stuff online, which was great because she had to downsize anyway to fit into her new, tiny home once it was built. This experience would alter the lifestyles of her kids and hers as well.
With her grandfather's help, Charlotte went to Bunnings Warehouse and bought all the building materials and the wood. Most of the money went on decoration, which she got from IKEA and Kmart, as well as furnishings, insulation, and construction. Despite buying inexpensive stuff, she splurged on the luxury linoleum flooring for the home's interior. And before she realized it, she had finished.
Charlotte's tiny home was finished five months after she started the project. The home contained two main rooms: One bedroom was for her, and the other was for her boys. Her room also shared the same space as the lounge, the kitchen, and dining room. It was a tough decision, but it was the only one to ensure that everything fit in such a tight space.
Charlotte had a king-sized bed with a large bed head, which wouldn't work in her tiny house. On her Facebook, she wrote: "At first I was so against a ‘double’ bed but like everything else I was forced to downsize…I made it high enough to fit storage boxes underneath.” Of course, there were other things in their lives that Charlotte and the children had to get used to.
With only a 10x20 ft space, everyone had to surrender some of their personal space. “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,” explained Charlotte. These tiny sacrifices ensured she didn't have debt and that she could actually own her own home.
Charlotte stated that: “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.” She added, “It is all mine.” The entire ordeal taught her a lot and she also hopes that it also taught something to her kids.
“I want my boys to know - it doesn't matter if you are a boy or girl, anyone can build their future,” said Charlotte. Her housing project didn't just guarantee her family's future, but also opened her mind to new opportunities. Armed with new confidence in her woodworking and building abilities, she began creating other things as well, like her kids' toys.
Charlotte has been busy building a sliding barn door for their bedroom, as well as an ice cream stand for the kids. Then it dawned on her that these skills could turn into a business. But first, she wants to pay her grandfather back. Then she´d like to make a living by building and selling tiny homes, and she´s already getting a head start on that.
Charlotte is currently working on making a new tiny house, but it's not for her. It's for her grandmother. She hopes it will be a prototype for her future business. Charlotte would also like to inspire women, including single moms, to take control of their lives like she did. “I just want other females to know they are capable of anything,” she said. She's even focusing on activism.
When Charlotte's story went viral, the Ballarat City Youth Council invited her to speak on homelessness at a forum. “There are so many single mums in the same boat, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one but this fact alone makes me even more aware of Australia’s housing crisis and I would love to help in any way!” she finished.