Family

The House That Mom Built

Using only YouTube videos, this family constructed an entire home — and a new future

YouTube has taught millions around the world how to do certain things — tie a necktie, build a rock wall, change a flat tire.

“I learned to saddle my horse using YouTube,” one North Shore, Massachusetts, woman told LifeZette. “No one was around to show me how, and I was anxious to ride, so I pulled up a video and followed the instructions. It worked — the saddle stayed on the horse, and off we went.”

Cara Brookins (photo: carabrookins.com)

“I was in several situations that made me feel smaller than ever, like domestic violence and being stalked by a man with a mental illness, so my goals and my future stayed small, too.”

But is it possible to build a whole house using YouTube? The short answer — yes.

In 2008, Cara Brookins of Little Rock, Arkansas, was dealing with the end of an abusive marriage and trying to evade a mentally ill stalker. With no home and four kids dependent on her, she was desperate. So she decided to build her own house with her own two hands — and some advice from several Home Depot employees and hundreds of YouTube “how to” videos.

“After I grew up and had four kids of my own, I should have built big things, but I was in several situations that made me feel smaller than ever, like domestic violence and being stalked by a man with a mental illness, so my goals and my future stayed small, too,” Brookins wrote on her website.

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“My kids were 17, 15, 11, and 2, and they had been knocked down so many times that they needed something big as badly as I did,” she added.

Brookins took out a small bank loan and bought an acre of land. She and the kids got to work — laying bricks, nailing lumber into a frame, and even installing counters — all with instruction from videos.

The result of their sweat equity? A five-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot house with a three-car garage (and a two-story treehouse).

The building of their own home with their own hands offered something more to this struggling family — a renewed family spirit.

Related: Grounding Our Children in Gratitude

As this determined mom noted on her website: “While our toes nearly froze off as we mixed concrete in a wheelbarrow, our back muscles ached from hauling two-by-fours, and we sweated and itched our way through fiberglass insulation — we also rebuilt our broken family.”

“Make a big change. What will you build?”

Brookins has chronicled the family’s homebuilding journey in a new memoir, “Rise: How A House Built a Family,” due out Jan. 24.

Her story offers hope for others in seemingly insurmountable circumstances.

“We did what everyone said was impossible,” she says in a video posted on her website. “What’s holding you back? Forget everything you’ve been told about taking baby steps, because if you want to achieve great things, start with a step so big, so impossible, that it forever changes who you are … Find your big step. Make a big change. What will you build?”

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