Monthly Downloads: 412,315
Programming language: Ruby
License: MIT License
Latest version: v1.2.1

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Discard Build Status

Soft deletes for ActiveRecord done right.

What does this do?

A simple ActiveRecord mixin to add conventions for flagging records as discarded.


Add this line to your application's Gemfile:

gem 'discard', '~> 1.2'

And then execute:

$ bundle


Declare a record as discardable

Declare the record as being discardable

class Post < ActiveRecord::Base
  include Discard::Model

You can either generate a migration using:

rails generate migration add_discarded_at_to_posts discarded_at:datetime:index

or create one yourself like the one below:

class AddDiscardToPosts < ActiveRecord::Migration[5.0]
  def change
    add_column :posts, :discarded_at, :datetime
    add_index :posts, :discarded_at

Discard a record

Post.all             # => [#<Post id: 1, ...>]
Post.kept            # => [#<Post id: 1, ...>]
Post.discarded       # => []

post = Post.first   # => #<Post id: 1, ...>
post.discard        # => true
post.discard!       # => Discard::RecordNotDiscarded: Failed to discard the record
post.discarded?     # => true
post.undiscarded?   # => false
post.kept?          # => false
post.discarded_at   # => 2017-04-18 18:49:49 -0700

Post.all             # => [#<Post id: 1, ...>]
Post.kept            # => []
Post.discarded       # => [#<Post id: 1, ...>]

From a controller

Controller actions need a small modification to discard records instead of deleting them. Just replace destroy with discard.

def destroy
  redirect_to users_url, notice: "Post removed"

Undiscard a record

post = Post.first   # => #<Post id: 1, ...>
post.undiscard      # => true
post.undiscard!     # => Discard::RecordNotUndiscarded: Failed to undiscard the record
post.discarded_at   # => nil

From a controller

def update
  redirect_to users_url, notice: "Post undiscarded"

Working with associations

Under paranoia, soft deleting a record will destroy any dependent: :destroy associations. Probably not what you want! This leads to all dependent records also needing to be acts_as_paranoid, which makes restoring awkward: paranoia handles this by restoring any records which have their deleted_at set to a similar timestamp. Also, it doesn't always make sense to mark these records as deleted, it depends on the application.

A better approach is to simply mark the one record as discarded, and use SQL joins to restrict finding these if that's desired.

For example, in a blog comment system, with Posts and Comments, you might want to discard the records independently. A user's comment history could include comments on deleted posts.

Post.kept # SELECT * FROM posts WHERE discarded_at IS NULL
Comment.kept # SELECT * FROM comments WHERE discarded_at IS NULL

Or you could decide that comments are dependent on their posts not being discarded. Just override the kept scope on the Comment model.

class Comment < ActiveRecord::Base
  belongs_to :post

  include Discard::Model
  scope :kept, -> { undiscarded.joins(:post).merge(Post.kept) }

  def kept?
    undiscarded? && post.kept?

# SELECT * FROM comments
#    INNER JOIN posts ON comments.post_id = posts.id
#    comments.discarded_at IS NULL AND
#       posts.discarded_at IS NULL

SQL databases are very good at this, and performance should not be an issue.

In both of these cases restoring either of these records will do right thing!

Default scope

It's usually undesirable to add a default scope. It will take more effort to work around and will cause more headaches. If you know you need a default scope, it's easy to add yourself โค.

class Post < ActiveRecord::Base
  include Discard::Model
  default_scope -> { kept }

Post.all                       # Only kept posts
Post.with_discarded            # All Posts
Post.with_discarded.discarded  # Only discarded posts

Custom column

If you're migrating from paranoia, you might want to continue using the same column.

class Post < ActiveRecord::Base
  include Discard::Model
  self.discard_column = :deleted_at


Callbacks can be run before, after, or around the discard and undiscard operations. A likely use is discarding or deleting associated records (but see "Working with associations" for an alternative).

class Comment < ActiveRecord::Base
  include Discard::Model

class Post < ActiveRecord::Base
  include Discard::Model

  has_many :comments

  after_discard do

  after_undiscard do

Warning: Please note that callbacks for save and update are run when discarding/undiscarding a record

Performance tuning

discard_all and undiscard_all is intended to behave like destroy_all which has callbacks, validations, and does one query per record. If performance is a big concern, you may consider replacing it with:

scope.update_all(discarded_at: Time.current) or scope.update_all(discarded_at: nil)

Working with Devise

A common use case is to apply discard to a User record. Even though a user has been discarded they can still login and continue their session. If you are using Devise and wish for discarded users to be unable to login and stop their session you can override Devise's method.

class User < ActiveRecord::Base
  def active_for_authentication?
    super && !discarded?


  • Special handling of AR counter cache columns - The counter cache counts the total number of records, both kept and discarded.
  • Recursive discards (like AR's dependent: destroy) - This can be avoided using queries (See "Working with associations") or emulated using callbacks.
  • Recursive restores - This concept is fundamentally broken, but not necessary if the recursive discards are avoided.


Discard provides the smallest subset of soft-deletion features that we think are useful to all users of the gem. We welcome the addition of gems that work with Discard to provide additional features.

Why not paranoia or acts_as_paranoid?

I've worked with and have helped maintain paranoia for a while. I'm convinced it does the wrong thing for most cases.

Paranoia and acts_as_paranoid both attempt to emulate deletes by setting a column and adding a default scope on the model. This requires some ActiveRecord hackery, and leads to some surprising and awkward behaviour.

  • A default scope is added to hide soft-deleted records, which necessitates adding .with_deleted to associations or anywhere soft-deleted records should be found. :disappointed:
    • Adding belongs_to :child, -> { with_deleted } helps, but doesn't work for joins and eager-loading before Rails 5.2
  • delete is overridden (really_delete will actually delete the record) :unamused:
  • destroy is overridden (really_destroy will actually delete the record) :pensive:
  • dependent: :destroy associations are deleted when performing soft-destroys :scream:
    • requiring any dependent records to also be acts_as_paranoid to avoid losing data. :grimacing:

There are some use cases where these behaviours make sense: if you really did want to almost delete the record. More often developers are just looking to hide some records, or mark them as inactive.

Discard takes a different approach. It doesn't override any ActiveRecord methods and instead simply provides convenience methods and scopes for discarding (hiding), restoring, and querying records.


After checking out the repo, run bin/setup to install dependencies. Then, run rake test to run the tests. You can also run bin/console for an interactive prompt that will allow you to experiment.


Please consider filing an issue with the details of any features you'd like to see before implementing them. Discard is feature-complete and we are only interested in adding additional features that won't require substantial maintenance burden and that will benefit all users of the gem. We encourage anyone that needs additional or different behaviour to either create their own gem that builds off of discard or implement a new package with the different behaviour.

Discard is very simple and we like it that way. Creating your own clone or fork with slightly different behaviour may not be that much work!

If you find a bug in discard, please report it! We try to keep up with any issues and keep the gem running smoothly for everyone! You can report issues here.


The gem is available as open source under the terms of the MIT License.


  • Ben Morgan who has done a great job maintaining paranoia
  • Ryan Bigg, the original author of paranoia (and many things), as a simpler replacement of acts_as_paranoid
  • All paranoia users and contributors

*Note that all licence references and agreements mentioned in the Discard README section above are relevant to that project's source code only.