Not knowing what you’re about to dive into with a new experience can be nerve-racking.

Despite knowing deep down in my soul that we were making the right choice, when my husband and I began to move forward with the adoption process, I was downright terrified. There was a certain sense of total lack of control.

Even though we knew families that had adopted, it still felt taboo to talk about some of the specifics. What exactly we should expect, how much it could cost, what we should/shouldn’t say, what we needed to do with our home, and a million other questions. Now, after having gone through it twice (one initial home study and one update), I have learned a couple things that everyone should know before jumping into their very own home study.

First things first: Your caseworker isn’t about to do a white glove test. While you do want your place clean and safe, you don’t need to sterilize everything. Unless that’s your norm. In that case, rock on.

Second, have all dangerous items in appropriate places. For example, we had all our cleaning products in a large bin up above our washer and dryer. Our guns were locked and stored, with ammo locked and stored in a separate area. If there are things that are potentially hazardous but cannot be changed at the moment, have a plan of action on how you’ll handle it. Also, have the appropriate amount of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors installed in your home. Safety first!

Third, don’t fret too much about the interview. The questions you’ll be asked during the home study are likely questions you’ve been asked before—and if not, surely you’ve already thought about them. Expect questions about raising a child, schools nearby, discipline styles, your extended family relationships, your relationship with your spouse, and really any other questions that allow them to get to know you better.

Fourth, prepare yourself to do a lot of paperwork. Background checks, physical health clearance from your doctors, financial statements, references, employer verification, birth certificates, and marriage certificates. I actually keep copies of all our important documents in a special folder for next time . . . if there is one.

Fifth, as silly and cliché as it sounds, BE YOURSELF! There is nothing better than allowing the caseworker to see the real you. How will they be able to help the right baby to get to your family if they know nothing about you?

For our first home study home visit, we definitely let our true colors shine. We had our two dogs (Darwin and Einstein) wearing cute little sweaters and matching ties. The scent wafting through the house was that of warm French toast (my favorite), I was in my typical combo Jeans, t-shirt, and a cardigan while Tyson wore his polo shirt and jeans.

One last little thing that I gathered from all the work we put into our home study was that it gave us an opportunity to learn if we’d really click with the our caseworker. At first we were great, but as time wore on we realized we didn’t mesh and were able to part ways. We then began working with the best caseworker we could ever imagine.