It’s that time of year again when we tend to look back on what was and think about what’s to come. I want to kind of sort out the past year, throw some of it out and keep what was good. I want to take those lessons with me into 2021 and figure out how to use them.

Of course, it’s going to take some time to process 2020, which was, most of all, the year of the pandemic. I feel as though the year has been five years long. So many things have happened, and there have been so many discoveries along the way. I feel as though I have gained five years of life experience in a single year.

As I look through my photos, I see protests, the national guard, urban homeless camps, boarded-up businesses, masks on people, masks on the street. I see toilet paper, handmade masks, homemade bread and a gallon of tap water.

There’s only one picture of family members who don’t live in my household. I took it in late April when we exchanged toilet paper for face masks in the backyard. I still have that large pack of toilet paper they brought from a big-box store in the suburbs. It’s now our emergency reserve.

There are no pictures of summer days spent up along the North Shore of Lake Superior or pictures from events or conferences because we stayed home. We skipped the traditional Thanksgiving dinner this year and mostly see family members via Zoom, though it’s not very often.

We all saw photos of cars lined up at COVID-19 test sites and exhausted healthcare workers dressed up in hazmat suits. We saw pictures of people on ventilators. I saw a shot of a room with at least 30 iPads on stands being charged so that people could see and talk to friends and family in intensive care units.

On the evening news, we saw long lines at food banks and polling places, especially during the primaries last spring.

For several months, it seemed like every time I tried to buy something, it was out of stock. Even the seeds I needed for my garden were scarce. We ran out of bread and yeast, and for a while, beans, pasta, flour and rice were hard to find. There are still food items that I don’t see on store shelves, and it doesn’t seem important anymore.

There are boarded-up and permanently closed businesses in my neighborhood. There is also a new real estate company just down the street. Their sign indicates that they provide services for free, or perhaps they just don’t charge commissions.

Some local businesses “pivoted,” which means they changed or adjusted their businesses by making their services more pandemic friendly. Some now offer curbside pick-up. One restaurant added a portable wood fire oven and is making pizzas. (The pizza is excellent and is quickly becoming a neighborhood favorite.)

What’s more, 2020 is definitely the year of the home. So many of us have stayed at and worked from home this past year. Not to mention, there’s a lot of remodeling going on. People are buying appliances and furniture, and redecorating and repurposing their spaces. Others are buying new houses that have more space for offices and classrooms.

Home sales in my area have remained strong and are up from last year. Prices have gone up, too. It’s been a great year for homesellers. Housing sells quickly and with multiple offers. Buyers are more active than usual this holiday season, and as a result, we may break another record for low inventory.

And lastly, glancing back at this past year, the 2020 presidential election — and all that went into it — is also one for the history books.

In short, 2020 will end, but each one of us will carry something from this year with us into the future — something new we’ve learned, a behavior change, a lasting memory or a new skill. Some of those memories will be happy, and some will be sad. We probably won’t remember much about which company bought another company or changed business models.

2021 will likely be a fantastic year in residential real estate for homeowners and for small companies like mine. I have no idea what type of company is going to do the best in 2021.

I just know that real estate companies are getting bigger and bigger, and I feel as though I’m uniquely positioned to offer something different. Maybe 2021 will be a year when age and experience become in style, and those of us who have both will have an advantage in the marketplace.

Whatever happens, I hope we can get rid of the phrase “new normal” in 2021. We must be done with it by now. What does it even mean? Why would anyone want to be “normal”?  Why do we search for normal instead of trying to be better? This year taught us how to reinvent. We can take that with us into 2021.

Next year, we want to work toward “better than ever” or “the best we can be.” 2021 is yet another opportunity for all of us to help make the world a better place — because we can do so much better than normal.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

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