single mom's tiny home
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
May 31, 2023 ·  5 min read

Single Mom Facing Homelessness Built A $10K Tiny Home Instead Of Taking Out A $300K Mortgage

Charlotte Sapwell was 27 and homeless when her marriage ended, leaving her as the single mother of two boys. She dismissed the option of a house with a mortgage draining her limited funds. Instead, she built her own miniature home for just $10,000. This single mom’s tiny home in Ballarat, Victoria, put a roof over her family’s head while saving them money. 

“It’s not something I had ever really thought about, but then due to financial difficulties, I spoke to my grandpa and he suggested we build a tiny house,” said Charlotte. “I was running out of options and as a mum I needed to do everything within my power to provide for my boys even if it meant some long days and hard work.” 

Building a Single Mom’s Tiny Home  

Charlotte was living at her parents’ house but she wanted to be free of financial obligation while living in her own home. 

Five months later, Charlotte had built her tiny home in her grandfather’s backyard. It wasn’t a simple journey. Charlotte and her sons, aged two and six, lived without essential amenities for months before construction was complete in 2017. 

“The first few weeks were hard with three people living in a box,” she said, “but then when things started happening like running water, flushing toilet we all got excited. 

Charlotte's miniature home was built for just $13,000. Source: Charlotte Sapwell
Image Credit: Charlotte Sapwell

“I went without a washing machine for a few months and it was getting to the point of ridiculousness.” 

The grandfather helped by giving her a loan and an area in his yard to build. With his generosity, the single mom’s tiny home was completed without too much financial distress. 

“I’m lucky that together we did all the labor, and I’m talking everything so that took away a lot of the cost.” 

Charlotte getting her hands dirty during the build. Source: Charlotte Sapwell
Image Credit: Charlotte Sapwell

Most of the very limited budget bought materials from Bunnings. The rest went to furniture from IKEA, Kmart, and wherever else they could find cheap products.  

“My main tip is Gumtree, garage sales anyone chucking stuff in dumpys; we live in an online world and it’s very easy to put a call out online and see what people are getting rid of and the same goes for selling. Everyone loves a bargain.” [1] 

Read: Single dad adopts five siblings so they can stay together

Inside the Tiny Home 

The tiny home has three rooms: the boys’ bedroom, a bathroom, and the main area that includes Charlotte’s bedroom and the kitchen. She’s proud that her kids were able to have their own private space. She feels they deserve it after all they’ve done to help her with the construction. 

Although building the small home was more of a necessity than a fun hobby, Charlotte was inspired by the experience to take on another similar project. She also has tips for anyone who’s thinking of creating their own tiny home. 

The kitchen, living room and Charlotte's bedroom are combined into one room. Source: Charlotte Sapwell
Image Credit: Charlotte Sapwell

“My advice is don’t be afraid to start small, really we don’t need a lot of things,” she said. “A smaller mortgage means so much room for possibilities, you learn to really appreciate what’s around you and for me, I’ve learned what I am personally capable of so in saying that anyone can do it. I never would have thought I’d ever achieve building my own home let alone love what I’m doing.” 

The main room encompasses the kitchen and living room together. Source: Charlotte Sapwell
Image Credit: Charlotte Sapwell

She has since sold a beautifully-styled tiny home in 2018 and continues to promote this simple lifestyle. She believes that less is more and that people don’t need so many material possessions to be happy. Plus, a smaller space means there’s less cleaning. [2] 

Empowering Single Moms 

Although this single mom’s tiny home was built in 2017, her story rings true today. Single mothers are faced with a seemingly impossible task, to financially and emotionally care for their kids, which is typically a two-persons’ job. 

It’s rough. There’s little time for the mom herself between work and child-caring, so burnout comes often. After all, she has to do everything herself.  

It’s lonely. Once the kids go to bed, the house becomes quiet and the mother is unable to go out whenever she wants. 

However, it can also be extremely empowering. Whenever people face something difficult and make it to the other side, it’s uplifting. It unlocks a certain potential they never knew they had. There’s joy to be found in accomplishing hard things. [3] 

Charlotte didn’t think she would be able to build her own home. She thought her grandfather’s idea was insane. After all, she failed her Year 9 woodworking class. Despite that, she was able to do what she once thought was impossible. 

Among these challenges comes the guilt that all single mothers face. They wonder if they’re really a good mother and if they could do more for her kids. While these thoughts may come, it’s important to know that a person can’t do more than her best. And doing her best is good enough. 

Charlotte’s pride and joy is her sons’ bedroom. Her kids have helped her so much during the construction process, and her hard work provided them with a warm and stunning space. 

“For me the proudest moment was the boys’ room, giving them their own space filled me with an incredible sense of achievement,” she said. 

Single moms truly are modern superheroes. 

  1. ‘Single mum builds tiny house for less than $13k with materials from Bunnings‘ Yahoo. Published October 17, 2017 
  2. ‘Single Mom On The Verge Of Becoming Homeless Builds Her Own Tiny House With Her Bare Hands’ Parential Daniel Mulaney. Published August 19, 2019 
  3. ‘Being a single mom is the hardest, most empowering thing I’ve ever done’ Motherly Sydney Hutt. Published July 17, 2017.