The day after Christmas 2009, high school teacher Shannon Ables was house-sitting for her parents in Wallowa County and about to turn 30 when she came to a life-changing realization.
“I had spent my 20s trying to do what society and my friends and family expected me to do, but I just felt that I had something else to give,” Ables said. “I always felt outside of myself and wasn’t content.”
Ables decided to start a blog as a creative outlet to write about her frustrations, dreams and ideas about how to create a more fulfilling life for herself. This soul-searching led to the understanding that she wanted to simplify her life, spend more time and energy on the activities she truly enjoyed and focus on quality over quantity.
The Bend teacher, blogger and author will discuss her journey since then, the philosophy behind The Simply Luxurious Life blog and her new book, “Living the Simply Luxurious Life: Making Your Everydays Extraordinary and Discovering Your Best Self,” on Friday in Bend.
In 2009, blogging was a relatively new phenomenon, and Ables had no intention of trying to make money from her online musings.
“I was doing it more for myself and trying to figure things out,” Ables said. “It was a creative outlet, but what happened was that I started to meet people with similar interests and ideas and connect with them through the blog in a very authentic way.”
She called her blog The Simply Luxurious Life (thesimplyluxuriouslife.com) and posted to it daily.
While the title might suggest TSLL is populated with images of pricey designer clothing and high-end real estate. Ables says the heart of the lifestyle blog is about coming to truly know yourself and tapping into who you are in order to find contentment.
In one post, she extols the pleasure of a quiet cup of tea as an antidote to a stressful day, while in another, she showcases a cashmere sweater as a style inspiration.
Ables sees the decor, style and travel content on the site more as accessories to someone’s sense of self than as the central focus of her posts.
An avowed Francophile since spending a semester studying abroad in France during college, Ables frequently explores how she might apply aspects of the French lifestyle — a slower pace of life, good food, engaging conversation, personal style, French fashions — into her life in the United States.
Since its early days, the blog’s audience has grown to about 300,000 visitors per month. Ables has maintained her full-time job as a teacher while continuing to make at least six blog posts each week and expanding her activities to include a weekly newsletter, weekly podcast (called The Simple Sophisticate), a cooking show and two books.
Unlike many bloggers, Ables does not rely on sponsors and paid endorsements. She says the products, places and experiences she discusses or recommends are all things she would use or wear, or that she believes have lasting value.
“Because I was able to have my own income from teaching, I never felt forced to make the blog a source of money,” Ables said. “I want readers to trust me because this is a community, so I really only write about things that I pick up or experience on my own.”
Her first book, “Choosing the Simply Luxurious Life: A Modern Woman’s Guide” was released in 2014 in response to requests and suggestions from her blog fans. Ables worked with a freelance editor to curate, organize and expand on her TSLL posts and self-published the book, which she says has sold more than 15,000 copies.
The second book, “Living the Simply Luxurious Life,” was released this month. With her packed schedule, Ables said careful planning and time management were the key to bringing the second book to fruition.
“I put the book together (summer 2017), then worked on editing every weekend over the past year,” Ables said. “I love doing it, so it’s both energizing and draining.”
She typically spends three to four hours each day, either before or after her day job, working on the various TSLL components, and dedicates another day to it each weekend.
While the book weighs in at a hefty 400 pages, Ables structured it as a resource book that doesn’t need to be read in order. The content is arranged thematically, with chapters dedicated to relationships, living small, cooking, financial security and so on.
“Hopefully, this is a book that will help people shed the expectations they’ve assumed either consciously or unconsciously and accept the person they’re capable of being,” Ables said.