Clathrin-dependent endocytosis allows cells to bring plasma membrane and extracellular molecules into the cell. Forming a clathrin-coated vesicle requires the sequential action of numerous factors, beginning with endocytic adaptors. Adaptors are thought to initiate the process in two ways: by selecting cargo for packaging into the vesicle and assembling the clathrin coat and other components necessary to shape the vesicle. Here, we review recent work focusing on the sequential and cooperative interactions of adaptors with their binding partners, and how adaptors contribute to initial stages of endocytic internalization. The regulation of adaptors might be a key step for controlling endocytosis, and thus aid in homeostasis and cell physiology.